Sacramento Republic FC has waited, waited and waited some more, but it appears that its patience is on the verge of paying off.
According to the Sacramento Bee, the club will be given the green light to join MLS early next week, ending an arduous expansion process that took five years and was on-again, off-again. If that is indeed the case, it will become the league's 29th franchise, leaving one open space in MLS's previously stated plan to grow to 30 teams.
Sacramento burst onto the scene in 2014 as a smash success in USL, one with massive crowds and a fervent following, and it quickly made its MLS intentions known. It lacked the financial capital to break through, as the league's expansion fees continued to rise over the years. The addition of Ron Burkle, the Pittsburgh Penguins part owner and private equity investor, to its ownership group added the clout necessary to tick that box, and it appears that the final negotiating points and needs areas have been sorted.
Sacramento, if granted a franchise, would join 2020 expansion teams Inter Miami and Nashville SC, 2021 expansion team Austin FC and the to-be-named 2022 team in St. Louis as future members of MLS. It's unclear when Sacramento, which will compete in the 2019 USL Championship playoffs, would join MLS. It is set to commence construction on a new $250 million stadium at the Downtown Railyards site it has long secured for an MLS venue. It will also reportedly bring the Republic FC name from USL to MLS.
The club remained coy upon the Bee's report, though an event is reportedly scheduled for Monday, where city dignitaries and league officials will be on hand to mark the end of the expansion process.
“We share the great excitement and anticipation in our community about Sacramento’s bid to join Major League Soccer," it said in a statement. "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.”
While the club's statement didn't indicate anything final, its sharing of Monday's event, co-branded with Republic and MLS imagery, should say enough.
So ready has Sacramento been for an MLS team, that exactly two years ago it announced a jersey deal with UC Davis Health that was binding for its expected MLS entry. Surely then it didn't think it'd be another two years before its path to MLS was finally clear.
Should Sacramento indeed get its team, it would figure to leave Charlotte–backed by the Carolina Panthers' billionaire owner David Tepper–as the frontrunner for the remaining berth on the path to 30 teams, though bids from Las Vegas, Phoenix, Raleigh, San Diego and Indianapolis all had representatives attend an MLS board of governors meeting at the MLS All-Star Game in Orlando this past summer.
MLS has stopped short from saying that 30 teams will definitively be the end point for expansion.