MLS commissioner bullish on Sacramento's chances for a major league soccer franchise

Railyard stadium development part of putting best foot forward

According to a top soccer official, it may only be a matter of when, not if, Sacramento joins the big leagues.

Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber stopped just short of guaranteeing a franchise slot for FC Republic, now with the United Soccer League. “I think Sacramento will be very high on our list of next clubs to come into the league,” Garber said in an answer to an SN&R question during a December 3 conference call. “We're going to continue to monitor what goes on there.”

Two days before the call, the Sacramento City Council unanimously approved a nonbinding term sheet to build a $226 million stadium at the railyards if Republic FC is awarded an MLS franchise. Republic FC President Warren Smith, who helped get Raley Field built for the Sacramento River Cats 15 years ago, told SN&R that the stadium can be built in 15 months if MLS gives the green light. “Obviously, it's their decision, and we fully respect that,” he added. “But at the same time, we've taken all the risk out for them so it makes it a lot easier for them to award us.”

Smith envisions a stadium near the Golden 1 Center that's currently being constructed.

MLS currently has 20 teams. The league announced a couple of years ago that it would expand to 24 teams by 2020, with new franchises approved in Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta and Minneapolis. Sacramento narrowly missed getting one of these slots. But on December 5, MLS announced that it will eventually expand to 28 teams, though Garber didn't announce a timetable.

Councilman Jeff Harris, whose district includes the railyards, expressed guarded optimism. “The development team has opened absolutely every door that they can to be attractive to MLS, to be awarded a franchise. We’ve got so much in place that I just can’t see the people who want to further soccer in the world wouldn’t see the opportunity here,” he said. “Is it a sure thing? No. Is it guaranteed? No. Is it extremely likely? Yes.”