MLS Announces Sacramento Will Join As 29th Expansion Club In '22
MLS Commissioner Don Garber formally announced that a Sacramento investor group headed by Penguins co-Owner Ron Burkle has been "awarded the 29th" expansion club, with a new $252M soccer-specific stadium "expected to be ready" to host the team in spring '22, according to a front-page piece by Bizjak & Breton of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Burkle said that he is "buying the team to hold it for the long-run, and expects to build a successful franchise that makes money by offering a great fan experience." He added, "The time is right for soccer. It is going to grow and grow, and Sacramento is the second largest city in the country that only has one (major league sports) team. I like communities where there is hard work and loyal people." Burkle added that he had "thought he and his group were going to pay" a $150M expansion franchise fee to join MLS, and "were not pleased to discover MLS had upped the fee" to $200M. Burkle: "It's a free market world, and when the price went up to 200, it went to 200. But the commissioner worked with us ... and we came to a place where we thought we could make the $200 (million) work." Burkle plans to "develop land adjacent to the stadium in the railyard to help create a broader business enterprise that will increase his financial footprint in Sacramento business." The effort to bring MLS to Sacramento "stepped up a level this spring" after Burkle and movie producer Matt Alvarez joined USL club Sacramento Republic FC's ownership group as "lead investors" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 10/22).
While I'm voting in Washington D.C. today, my heart is in Sacramento. Congratulations to @SacRepublicFC and our fans for securing a spot in the @MLS! It doesn't just take a village, #ItTakesARepublic. #MLS2SAC pic.twitter.com/SoUG1VUEYD— Rep. Doris Matsui (@DorisMatsui) October 21, 2019
LONG TIME COMING: Garber said Sacramento is the "perfect city for our growing league" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 10/21). PRO SOCCER USA's Chris Fuhrmeister wrote after "years of being jilted in MLS' expansion race," Sacramento's bid "long ticked off two key boxes: impressive fan support and plans for a downtown, soccer-specific stadium" (PROSOCCERUSA.com, 10/21). SI.com's Avi Creditor noted this expansion was about MLS "finally awarding the city its team after seeming to string it along throughout an exhaustive process" (SI.com, 10/21).
UNSUNG HEROES: In Sacramento, Marcos Breton in a front-page piece writes during a 15-minute interview with Burkle, he learned that fans "may never hear from Burkle again." Burkle said that interview was "more than he has said to the media in Pittsburgh." Meanwhile, the "most glaring no-show" at yesterday's announcment was former Mayor Kevin Johnson. Burkle said that it was Johnson who "first called to get him interested in soccer" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 10/22).
REACHING CRITICAL MASS: SOCCER AMERICA's Paul Kennedy notes Garber yesterday was "adamant that it was time to put the brakes on expansion." Garber: "There will be a time when MLS is larger than 30 teams. I don't see that happening any time soon" (SOCCERAMERICA.com, 10/22).