Soccer

Major League Soccer confirms big announcement in Sacramento. Governor set to attend

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MLS & Sacramento

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Major League Soccer announced Sunday that Commissioner Don Garber will be in Sacramento on Monday alongside Gov. Gavin Newsom and Mayor Darrell Steinberg to make what the league calls a major announcement.

Sources have previously told The Bee that Sacramento is expected to be awarded the league’s 29th franchise, which will play under the Republic FC banner starting in 2022 in a soccer stadium to be built in the downtown railyard.

“Tomorrow, Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber will be joined by leadership from Sacramento Republic FC, the group working to bring an MLS expansion team to Sacramento, as well as Mayor of Sacramento Darrell Steinberg and Governor of California Gavin Newsom for a special announcement,” the league said in its Sunday afternoon statement.

It represents the league’s first formal statement about the Sacramento franchise deal. MLS officials reportedly are in Sacramento Sunday meeting with city officials, the local investor group and Republic FC officials to prepare for an 11:30 a.m. press conference at The Bank venue on J Street downtown.

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The announcement will be followed at 4 p.m. by a fan rally, expected to draw thousands, on Capitol Mall.

The announcement will mark the successful conclusion of a laborious five-year effort by Sacramento community leaders and various investors to secure a franchise in MLS, the premier professional soccer league in the United States and Canada.

That effort stepped up a level this spring after Los Angeles billionaire businessman Ron Burkle, who co-owns the Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League, and Hollywood movie producer Matt Alvarez joined wealthy Sacramento businessman Kevin Nagle as lead investors, injecting more financial heft into the local effort.

The Burkle group has been in negotiations with MLS league officials on final deal terms since late April.

That group has said it plans to begin pre-construction site preparation immediately on a $250 million, 20,000-plus seat stadium on undeveloped land in the downtown railyard east of Seventh Street.

Sacramento currently is home to the Republic FC soccer team that has played in the lower-tier United Soccer League since 2014. The expansion team will take over the Republic FC banner.

The team issued a statement Tuesday saying it looks forward to sharing information in the coming days: “We share the great excitement and anticipation in our community about Sacramento’s bid to join Major League Soccer. We will continue to respect the MLS expansion process and remain confident about the future of our club and our city. We look forward to sharing more information in the days ahead.”

Steinberg, who served as a deal facilitator, declined comment pending a formal league announcement. Steinberg has promoted Major League Soccer as another step in the evolution of downtown, and as an economic and entertainment engine for the region.

“We have demonstrated to the league that we want this,” he said earlier this year. “We are absolutely the right choice for the league.”

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Tony Bizjak has been reporting for The Bee for 30 years. He covers transportation, housing and development and previously was the paper’s City Hall beat reporter.
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