When the World Cup returns to North America in eight years, Sacramento may play a supporting role.
The city and its soccer club are laying the groundwork to serve as a base camp for at least one of the 48 national teams that will participate in the 2026 World Cup, Republic FC officials said.
Base camps have become an increasingly vital element of the world’s biggest soccer tournament, with teams and fans staying in host cities for several days before and during the event. Many cities in Russia that did not host World Cup matches this year were the temporary base camps for national teams from around the world.
Landing a base camp would likely require a Major League Soccer stadium in Sacramento, where teams staying here would practice. Republic FC plans to build a 20,000-seat facility in the downtown railyard, but only if Sacramento lands one of two remaining expansion spots in MLS.
The league has not announced when it will award the next expansion franchise. Its board of governors meets Aug. 1 in Atlanta and is scheduled to discuss expansion, although it’s unclear whether a decision will be made at that time.
If Sacramento is awarded a team this year, Republic FC officials have said they could open their stadium by 2020 or 2021 – years ahead of the World Cup.
Republic FC officials said Sacramento has many advantages that could help land a World Cup base camp.
Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara is widely believed to be a front-runner to host World Cup matches. In addition to its relative proximity to Sacramento, Levi’s Stadium is home to the San Francisco 49ers, who are investors in Republic FC and have helped the team with its stadium design and marketing. Republic FC and 49ers officials have discussed the base camp possibility.
Seattle and Los Angeles – both short flights from Sacramento – are also on the list of potential host cities for World Cup matches in 2026.
“We want to take every opportunity through the platform of soccer to showcase Sacramento and there is no bigger platform than the World Cup,” Republic FC chairman and CEO Kevin Nagle said in an email. “We plan and expect to have a world-class stadium and the necessary surrounding infrastructure in the near future, which puts Sacramento in a strong position for multiple supporting roles.”
Mike Testa, president and CEO of the Visit Sacramento tourism agency, compared landing a base camp to hosting the March Madness men’s college basketball tournament. Testa recalled the 2007 tournament, when fans of Indiana University descended on Sacramento to cheer on their team at Arco Arena, packing restaurants and area hotels.
“That’s a small piece of what would happen,” he said. “This to me wouldn’t be a three- or four-day opportunity. This would be multiple days with hundreds of international visitors experiencing the market and spending their money here.”