MLS executives will meet team owners, party with fans in Sacramento

When Major League Soccer executives visit Sacramento on Thursday to discuss a potential expansion team, they’ll get high-level briefings with the corporate community – and a chance to party with fans.

The MLS entourage’s itinerary for the two-day Sacramento visit was released Tuesday, and it includes meetings with the owners of the city’s minor-league soccer team, Sacramento Republic FC, as well as a briefing with representatives trying to bring an MLS franchise to Elk Grove. League executives, led by Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott, will meet with corporate sponsors, possible new investors in Republic FC and Mayor Kevin Johnson.

League executives will examine Republic FC’s current home at Bonney Field, and tour the downtown Sacramento railyard, home of the most likely location for an MLS stadium. Republic FC officials will brief Abbott and his group on financing plans for a stadium.

The MLS group will also visit the Kings office that overlooks the construction site of the city’s new NBA arena at Downtown Plaza. Republic FC’s lead investor, Kevin Nagle, is a Kings minority owner; he said last week that other Kings part-owners might invest in the team as well.

There will also be a chance for fans to rub elbows with the MLS group. Abbott is expected to attend a playoff block party hosted by Republic FC at 7 p.m. Thursday at the corner of K and 20th streets in midtown.

“There is demonstrable, significant support in Sacramento,” said Chris Lehane, the political strategist who is executive director of Johnson’s Think Big Sacramento advisory group. “The block party is a way to animate and make that point.”

The team plays its second-round playoff game at Bonney Field on Saturday evening; it’s possible some of the MLS officials will stay for the game.

Besides Abbott, the MLS group will include Charles Altchek, special assistant to the commissioner; and Dan Courtemanche, executive vice president for communications.

Sacramento is believed to be running neck-and-neck with Minneapolis for an MLS expansion team, and this week’s visit is considered crucial for Sacramento’s hopes of winning the competition.

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