The race is on right now to bring Major League Soccer to the Sacramento region, and the two competing groups – one from Sacramento, the other from Elk Grove – have different strategies despite a common goal.
Earlier this week, MLS Commissioner Don Garber confirmed what had been rumored for some time. The league will expand to 24 teams, and Sacramento is on the short-list for an expansion franchise.
On one side there is the Sacramento group being pushed by a private company. It’s led by River Cats co-founder Warren Smith, who has taken the approach of establishing a USL-Pro team, the Republic, F.C. that will begin play here next March.
“We have a road-map,” explained Joe Wagoner, Executive Vice President of the Republic, F.C. “It’s about executing. It’s about selling tickets. It’s about having a front office that knows how to run a pro sports team, and it’s about being able to deliver a stadium.”
The idea is that, if the club can show results on the field and in the stands, Smith will be able to convince the MLS to put Sacramento near the top of the expansion list.
The Elk Grove group is a public-private partnership, with Mayor Gary Davis and the City Council pulling the strings. Davis has had discussions with Commissioner Garber and has already started negotiations to build a soccer stadium at the unfinished mall, the Elk Grove Promenade.
“I know the Sacramento group is on a parallel course, and we wish them success,” commented Elk Grove Councilmember Jim Cooper. “We’re definitely ahead of them when it comes to talks with the MLS.”
The question now though is, are 2 competing bids too much?
“I think when the time is right, and Major League Soccer knows what it is looking for we’ll be able to all get in the same room and figure out how to make a strong case for the region,” said Wagoner.
Both groups say their time frame for expansion is in the 3-5 year range, but the final decision will be up to the MLS Board of Governors.