MLS Expansion Group Acquires Sacramento Republic FC

Proposed Sacramento stadiumThe group backing a bid for an MLS expansion franchise in Sacramento has acquired Sacramento Republic FC, a decision that could bolster the city’s case. 

Leading the MLS expansion bid for Sacramento is Sac Soccer & Entertainment Holdings, a group that is headed by Kevin Nagle. When the bid was formally submitted in late January, the group included Nagle and several other big names–including Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman and San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York–but did not include Sacramento Republic FC’s brand.

This initially posed something of a concern, prompting Sacramento mayor Darrell Steinberg to meet with Nagle and Republic FC president Warren Smith. In February, Steinberg announced that the two sides had come to an agreement in principal that could ultimately unify their effort. On Monday, the sides announced that a deal was complete. More from The Sacramento Bee:

When Nagle submitted his expansion bid in January without using the Republic FC brand in the paperwork, the club accused Nagle of violating an agreement the parties had. Steinberg intervened and convinced the sides to come to an agreement.

It’s unclear whether the rift had an impact on Republic FC’s bid. Other cities vying for an expansion spot are developing stadium plans and organizing wealthy ownership groups of their own.

“There is no question we have the strongest bid,” Nagle said.

Steinberg said MLS executives stressed that settling the ownership dispute was a “key piece” in the city’s bid.

“We’ve followed what’s going on in other cities, but you can only control what you can control,” the mayor said.

Though facing its fair share of competition in the expansion evaluation process, Sacramento has a few advantages in its bid. The city has already signed off on a stadium plan, and Republic FC has annually been one of the USL’s top draws, attracting a loyal following to Papa Murphy’s Park. Having Republic FC under the MLS expansion bid umbrella also aligns the priorities of the two entities, something that groups in other cities–with Nashville being the most recent example–have sought to accomplish in their bids.

Sacramento is one of 12 expansion candidates in the mix for four clubs. The first two clubs are expected to join MLS in 2020.

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