Sacramento has officially been snubbed for an expansion spot in Major League Soccer. At least for now.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber announced Tuesday that Cincinnati had been awarded the 26th franchise in the nation’s top pro soccer league. The Ohio city was awarded the second of two expansion spots the league had up for grabs in this round, beating out Sacramento and Detroit. Nashville was granted a team in December.
Garber noted Cincinnati’s “meteoric rise” from the second-tier United Soccer League to MLS. FC Cincinnati began play in 2016, drawing record crowds.
“You have shocked the world and showed us that if you have the right city, if you have the right ownership and management, if you have the right public support and you have the ability to bring fans together around this sport, great things can happen and the world has taken notice,” Garber said.
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Cincinnati will begin play in MLS next year and will play at the University of Cincinnati's Nippert Stadium while a new stadium near downtown is constructed. Securing that urban core stadium site was seen as the final piece of Cincinnati's expansion bid.
While the announcement is a setback for Sacramento's long campaign for an expansion franchise, all is not lost.
Garber has said the league intends to expand to 28 teams at some point, although he hasn’t provided a timeline.
That gives Sacramento and Republic FC a chance to clear its final hurdle in putting together a complete bid: finding a deep-pocketed investor with the financial heft to not only cover the start-up costs of launching an MLS franchise, but remain financially viable thereafter.
The Sacramento contingent, led by pharmaceutical executive Kevin Nagle, is in conversations with potential investors interested in leading the expansion bid. Team officials have not identified those potential investors. The franchise has approvals from the city of Sacramento to construct a new stadium in the downtown railyard.
"This announcement does not impact Sacramento’s ability to join MLS," Republic FC said in a written statement. "We remain in regular communication with the league and Commissioner Garber and are working around the clock to secure a new lead investor to finalize our bid.
"We thank our amazing fans for their unmatched passion and continued support as we work to bring this process to the finish line and give our city the MLS team it deserves. Onward Republic!"