In a move that could boost Sacramento’s long-awaited bid for a Major League Soccer expansion spot, Republic FC has been acquired by the deep-pocketed investor group leading the expansion bid, the sides announced Monday.
The agreement means Republic FC will be acquired by Sac Soccer & Entertainment Holdings, the group led by Kings minority owner Kevin Nagle that filed the expansion application in January. It also means the Republic FC brand and team crest will be part of the MLS bid.
Team founder Warren Smith will remain as Republic FC president in the near term. The franchise and Papa Murphy’s Park will be controlled by Sac Soccer & Entertainment Holdings. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Nagle said he has been told by league officials that the next two expansion cities will be announced in December.
“I’m in regular touch with (MLS) and they are pleased by today’s news,” Nagle said.
The team announced it would launch a series of initiatives aimed at strengthening its bid. Fans will be asked to submit design proposals for a park outside a planned downtown railyard stadium, local construction firms are being sought for the stadium project, and, much like Golden 1 Center, the team will recruit local restaurants, farms and breweries to supply concessions at the new soccer stadium.
“It’s time to bring it home,” Mayor Darrell Steinberg said.
Sacramento has long been considered a front-runner to land one of the two MLS expansion spots up for grabs this year. Sacramento’s bid is anchored by a stadium proposal that already has the city’s approval; an ownership group that includes Nagle, San Francisco 49ers principal owner Jed York and former gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman; and a loyal fan base that has made Republic FC one of the top draws in the second-division United Soccer League.
A total of 12 cities have submitted bids, including San Diego, Cincinnati, the Tampa Bay region and Nashville.
The deal comes after a dispute between Nagle and Smith surfaced in January.
When Nagle submitted his expansion bid in January without using the Republic FC brand in the paperwork, the club accused Nagle of violating an agreement the parties had. Steinberg intervened and persuaded the sides to come to an agreement.
It’s unclear whether the rift had an impact on Republic FC’s bid. Other cities vying for an expansion spot are developing stadium plans and organizing wealthy ownership groups of their own.
“There is no question we have the strongest bid,” Nagle said.
Steinberg said MLS executives stressed that settling the ownership dispute was a “key piece” in the city’s bid.
“We’ve followed what’s going on in other cities, but you can only control what you can control,” the mayor said.