City Beat

MLS may take another month to decide on next expansion team

Sacramento faces 'funding gap' in Major League Soccer bid, Mayor Steinberg says

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg held a press conference Dec. 21 to discuss Major League Soccer's decision to delay the announcement of the league's next franchise until next year.
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Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg held a press conference Dec. 21 to discuss Major League Soccer's decision to delay the announcement of the league's next franchise until next year.

Sacramento soccer fans may have to wait another month before finding out whether the city has landed a spot in Major League Soccer.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber told Sports Illustrated on Wednesday that the next expansion spot will be announced “hopefully before the start of the season (in March).” He said that Sacramento, Cincinnati and Detroit are still in the running for the next expansion award, but did not indicate if one is a front-runner.

Garber did suggest the league is close to finalizing an expansion award, saying officials are “just dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s.”

Asked whether the league had updates on its expansion process, MLS spokesman Dan Courtemanche said, “While we do not have an update at this time, we hope to have more details in the coming weeks.”

The Sacramento contingent is trying to recruit a billionaire lead investor after acknowledging last month that it did not have the financial heft to land an expansion spot. Mayor Darrell Steinberg said the financial gap was not only a matter of the group being able to cover a $150 million expansion fee and construct a stadium, “but to be able to grow with the league over time.”

Republic FC has the city’s approval to construct a new $250 million stadium in the downtown railyard.

Steinberg has said he is open to having the city reduce construction fees and donate land toward an MLS team. However, Republic FC may request a more direct construction subsidy of at least $25 million. Steinberg said the public expectation has been that the stadium would be privately financed and that he does not support “a full-blown subsidy.”

Cincinnati has emerged as Sacramento’s primary competitor in the expansion race, although that city’s bid faces questions about its stadium plans. FC Cincinnati, a second-division soccer club, is planning to build a stadium in the Oakley neighborhood several miles from downtown, but news reports this week said the team is also interested in buying property closer to the city’s center. MLS has often said it prefers stadiums in urban settings.

Nashville was awarded an expansion spot in December, disappointing Sacramento fans who had believed for months that their city had the best chance of landing the next MLS bid.

In the meantime, it appears the long road toward an MLS team in Miami may be resolved soon. A large public event is planned in Miami on Monday to formally announce an agreement to launch the city’s MLS franchise, according to the Miami Herald.

Ryan Lillis: 916-321-1085, @Ryan_Lillis

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