Soccer

Is a big announcement about Sacramento’s Major League Soccer hope coming this month?

Sacramento’s years-long effort to win a top-tier Major League Soccer team got a major boost in April when national soccer officials announced they would enter into exclusive negotiations with capital city investors on a $200 million-plus deal to add a fourth California franchise here.

Since then, the effort has gone underground.

But local officials said this week the two sides have made enough progress that they may be able to finalize a deal this month to bring an MLS franchise to a local pitch by spring of 2021.

Ben Gumpert, president of Sacramento’s current lower-tier professional team, Republic FC, said the Sacramento investor group has been in almost daily contact with league officials on deal terms and stadium designs the last few months, aimed at closing a deal by the end of July.

“We’re still confident we can knock down everything we need to do in that time frame,” Gumpert said. “We’re progressing on the final steps of a partnership that can last for generations.

The MLS board of directors must vote its approval of any new franchise deal. The board is next scheduled to meet during the league’s July 31 All Star game week in Orlando.

Sacramento’s effort to win an MLS franchise got a major lift earlier this year when Los Angeles supermarket magnate and billionaire Ron Burkle and a partner, movie producer Matt Alvarez, revealed they would invest in bringing a team to the capital city.

In April, MLS Commissioner Don Garber announced the league had decided to expand from 27 to 30 in the next few years, and would negotiate exclusively for now with Sacramento and a potential owners group in St. Louis, with the hope that those two cities could work deals to enter the league in 2021 and 2022. A third city would be chosen later.

“The decision to grant these teams has not been made,” Garber said. But he said he was confident the groups could work out a deal. The league recently increased its entry fee to $200 million, to be paid by the Burkle and Alvarez investment group. The privately financed stadium is expected to cost in the $250 million-plus range.

In an aggressive push to land Major League Soccer, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and city officials recently agreed to a $33 million package of fee waivers, tax rebates, advertising rights and infrastructure financing to boost a soccer investment group’s plans for a downtown stadium.

The City Council took initial steps in making good on that promise last week by setting aside $1.8 million for processing, review and inspection fees on the upcoming stadium.

Gumpert said the team wants to be in position to launch stadium construction as soon as final MLS documents are signed. Much of the discussions between the league and the local investment group involve the design details of the planned soccer stadium.

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