Marking the culmination of a journey that began more than five years ago, Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber officially announced today that Major League Soccer (MLS) has awarded an expansion team to California’s capital city, Sacramento.
Sacramento Republic Football Club will begin play in MLS in 2022 and will build a new, $300 million, 20,100-seat soccer stadium in the downtown Railyards District. The stadium will be a centerpiece of a redevelopment project that will include housing, retail, theaters, parks, museums, a hotel and a major medical center.
“Major League Soccer continues to grow throughout North America and we are so proud to welcome Sacramento as our newest team,” said Commissioner Garber. “For many years, soccer fans in Sacramento have passionately supported Republic FC and shown that the club deserves to be competing at the highest level. Thanks to the determined efforts and commitment of new owners Ron Burkle and Matt Alvarez along with the leadership of Mayor Darren Steinberg, Sacramento will join MLS with a world-class soccer stadium that will transform the sport in California’s capital.”
The 20th largest media market in the United States, Sacramento saw a capacity crowd of more than 20,000 fans pack Hughes Stadium for the inaugural match of Sacramento Republic FC. Since then, Sacramento has demonstrated its love for soccer -- selling out match after match for Republic FC and establishing a new standard at the USL level. In the USL, Republic FC has set league records in many business metrics, including season ticket sales and merchandising.
The corporate community has already displayed its support for Sacramento’s MLS team. In one extraordinary example, UC Davis Health signed a multi-year partnership agreement in October 2017 with Republic FC to be the sponsor of its first jersey. The agreement begins when the club starts play in MLS.
“Sacramento’s selection by Major League Soccer for an expansion team is a victory to be celebrated by everyone in our community,” said Burkle. “This has been a true team effort between the amazing soccer fans of the Sacramento region along with Mayor Steinberg and City Council, our partners and corporate leaders. We are proud to be part of the team that Kevin Nagle put together, which is made even stronger by an incredibly committed local ownership group. The relationship between Sacramento and our club already is a special one, and I’m committed to deepening that connection for years to come.”
Known for its diversity of cultures and ethnicities, Sacramento regularly ranks among the best places to live and work in the United States. Nearly 25 percent of Sacramento County’s residents identify as Hispanic or Latino. Sacramento also is among the most robust markets for soccer participants in the U.S.; the per capita rate of participation in youth and adult soccer leagues in Sacramento is second in the country, with nearly 100,000 youth players in the community.
“Sacramento is a dynamic city that is perfectly positioned to join and be successful in the fastest-growing professional sports league in the world,” said Alvarez, a Bay Area native who attended the University of California, Davis before he started his career in entertainment. “I have immense respect and appreciation for the Sacramento community and have no doubt that we will bring the most passionate supporters that Major League Soccer has ever seen.”
With the addition of the MLS team in Sacramento, 19 clubs have joined MLS since 2005, fulfilling a vision for strategic expansion that has transformed the landscape of professional soccer across North America. Republic FC will add another major professional sports franchise to the city, joining the National Basketball Association’s Kings. It will be the fourth MLS club in California, following the LA Galaxy, San Jose Earthquakes and LAFC. An intense rivalry is likely to form quickly with the Earthquakes, who play just 90 miles southwest of Sacramento.
“Today’s official announcement of the selection of Sacramento to join Major League Soccer makes this a monumental day in our city’s history,” said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg. “I want to thank Commissioner Garber and everyone at MLS for believing in Sacramento, and I’m delighted that the faith shown in our city by Ron Burkle and Matt Alvarez has been rewarded. As an MLS franchise, Republic FC and our new soccer stadium will spur additional economic and cultural growth for Sacramento. This is a breakthrough for our city.”
Sacramento Republic FC fell 3-0 to Real Monarchs on October 19 at Zions Bank Stadium and the result guarantees Sacramento will host a play-in game on Wednesday night against an opponent that has yet to be determined.
Simon Elliott’s men finished the regular season with 48 points from 34 matches and will end up in either seventh or eighth place, depending on Austin Bold FC’s Saturday night result against Tacoma Defiance. If Austin wins or draws, Republic FC will bump down to eighth and host the ninth place team (either LA Galaxy II, San Antonio or New Mexico will be the ninth and tenth seeds).
The boys in Old Glory Red started the match strong and created the better scoring chances early on. In the 19th minute, midfielder Sam Werner whipped in a cross that found an open Villyan Bijev but the Bulgarian-born winger pushed his header just wide.
Seven minutes later, an attacking Republic FC side nearly broke through once again when Bijev fired a low cross into the box that forward Thomas Enevoldsen nudged just wide of the far post.
But it was the hosts who managed to take the lead on the cusp of halftime when a Kalen Ryden header gave Monarchs the 1-0 advantage. Ryden’s first header slammed off the crossbar but a quick cross from Maikel Chang was immediately returned to Ryden who buried his second effort.
Real Monarchs doubled their lead in the 50th minute when Tate Schmitt spotted Luke Mulholland sprinting towards goal and delivered a blistering right-footed shot that beat goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth.
Monarchs made it 3-0 off an indirect free kick resulting from a back pass to the goalkeeper. Justin Portillo laid the ball off for Douglas Martinez who powered his shot through the Republic FC defense and into the back of the net.
The Indomitable Club will begin their 2019 USL Championship Playoffs campaign this Wednesday night at Papa Murphy’s Park. More information on the upcoming match will be released following Saturday night’s results from around the league.