The warring parties in Sacramento’s soccer feud resumed negotiating Friday amid signs the dispute over Sacramento Republic FC could be nearing a peaceful end.
After declaring that the two factions made “tremendous progress” during a negotiating session Thursday evening, Mayor Darrell Steinberg convened another meeting with businessmen Kevin Nagle and Warren Smith. “I am confident that we will reach a positive resolution, one that will be great for Sacramento,” Steinberg said in a prepared statement after Thursday’s meeting.
Discussions were still ongoing Friday as The Bee’s print edition went to press.
Steinberg feared the dispute between Nagle and Smith could harm Sacramento’s bid for a Major League Soccer expansion team. Smith controls Republic FC, the minor-league club whose extraordinary popularity put Sacramento on the MLS radar. Nagle is the pharmaceutical tycoon who has assembled an ownership group and stadium plan needed to land the MLS berth, but doesn’t have control of Republic FC itself or its brand.
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Nagle has been trying to purchase control of the club from Smith for months, but they’ve been unable to agree on terms. When Nagle submitted a formal application for an expansion team Tuesday – without any reference to Republic FC in the documents – a conflict that had been quietly brewing for months suddenly became public.
Smith’s camp issued a statement Wednesday saying Nagle had reneged on his agreements by omitting Republic FC from the bid, and diehard fans accused Nagle on social media of abandoning the club. Nagle said he wanted Republic FC to join the MLS bid, but that he had to submit one on his own to meet a deadline imposed by MLS.
Following Thursday’s meeting with the mayor, Nagle and Smith issued a joint statement saying they’re “committed to delivering for the Sacramento region.”
MLS Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott declined to say this week whether the rift would hurt Sacramento’s chances at one of the four expansion spots up for grabs. But he said “the people in Sacramento believe presenting a unified front is the best way to proceed. … We should give those discussions time to play out.”
Eleven other cities have applied for expansion teams. A decision on the first two spots is expected this year.