The Sacramento Kings (NBA) are in talks about a Sacramento Republic FC purchase, with a plan to raise the USL Pro team to MLS with a new downtown stadium.
The Kings would be another major sports-business firm looking to enter MLS. In recent years, the New York Yankees and the Atlanta Falcons have been part of MLS team ownership, and both the Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings are angling to bring MLS to the Twin Cities. The move is being initiated by Kings owner Vivek Ranadive, the man who came in and basically saved NBA basketball for the city by successfully lobbying for a new arena, working with fans on establishing a clear community presence.
A Sacramento Republic FC purchase would certainly fit into Ranadive’s emphasis on family entertainment. Sacramento Republic FC opened its history this season with a sellout and never looked back, selling out every single match. Republic ducats, particularly in the team’s new smaller home, are hot. The growth of the team and the potential sale also validates the vision of Warren Smith, who worked for one of Minor League Baseball’s leading franchises, the Sacramento River Cats of the Pacific Coast League. From the Sacramento Bee:
This week, Kings President Chris Granger will travel to Portland to meet with MLS officials along with current Republic owner Warren Smith. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson is also expected to attend the meeting, scheduled for Wednesday.
A source close to Kings majority owner Vivek Ranadive said he sees soccer as a “tremendous opportunity for a larger vision of growth in Sacramento.” Soccer also fits with Ranadive’s interest of investing in sports that can create excitement not only locally but also internationally.
The prospect of Ranadive and the Kings suddenly materializing as legitimate players in a Sacramento pitch to MLS caps a dizzying few months for the little soccer team started by Smith, a former River Cats executive.
MLS officials have repeatedly said expanding to 24 teams by 2020 is a goal. Right now there are firm commitments for 22 teams, with Miami potentially a 23rd if David Beckham can work out a new-stadium deal (something that’s proven to be elusive). Minneapolis, El Paso, Las Vegas and now Sacramento are potentially on tap for the 24th franchise.
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