Sacramento group arrives for MLS expansion presentation
It was supposed to be decision day. Instead, soccer fans in Sacramento were left wondering whether their major-league aspirations will come true.
The Major League Soccer board of governors on Thursday had “a productive discussion about the bids from ownership groups representing Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville and Sacramento to become the next MLS expansion clubs,” the league announced in a written statement.
A league spokesman would not say whether the league owners actually voted on which two cities would get expansion spots.
“League officials and the MLS Expansion Committee will continue to work with the four finalists and plan to have more details shortly,” the league statement read.
An announcement on the winning bids is still expected before the end of the month. Two more expansion spots will be granted at a later date.
The vague nature of the MLS statement left many local fans unsatisfied.
“So weird,” Republic FC season-ticket holder and fan Jillian Adge wrote on Twitter.
It had been expected for days that the MLS board of governors – comprised of the owners of the 23 current teams – would vote on granting expansion spots to two cities during its annual meeting in New York City.
The board met eight days after representatives from Sacramento, Nashville, Detroit and Cincinnati made presentations to a committee of owners tasked with recommending two expansion cities. It’s not known whether that expansion committee, made up of six team owners, made a recommendation to the full board.
Leaders from all four bid cities expressed confidence in their chances coming out of their presentations to the expansion committee in New York.
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said the local group’s pitch “could not have gone better,” although he added MLS had questions of the Sacramento contingent that needed to be answered before a decision could be made.
Steinberg was joined in the presentation by former Mayor Kevin Johnson and Republic FC lead investor Kevin Nagle, a pharmaceutical company executive who has spent millions of dollars on the bid.
The team has begun preparing a site in the downtown railyard for a future 20,000-seat soccer stadium that would only be constructed if the city is awarded an expansion team. Republic FC said the early work on the stadium was done before the expansion award to show MLS that the city’s bid was more advanced than the competing cities.
The $250 million railyard stadium is expected to be privately financed, while new owners must also pay a $150 million expansion fee to MLS.
Besides Nagle, Meg Whitman, the billionaire Silicon Valley executive and former California gubernatorial candidate, is also an investor in the team. She had agreed to invest in the expansion effort early this year, withdrew after announcing her retirement from Hewlett-Packard Co. last month and then rejoined the bid last week.
San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York and Sacramento developer Mark Friedman are also investors in the team.