(KTXL) — A potential new investor for the Sacramento Republic FC has emerged, as the club and city aims to revive its efforts on joining the MLS.

In a news conference on Thursday, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said the city and the team have been in discussions with the Stronach Group, including CEO Belinda Stronach and EVP and COO Kevin Gillmore, over the last year.

“I wanted to state publicly my appreciation for them and for their willingness to consider this for their belief in Sacramento,” Steinberg said at a news conference on Thursday. “I also want to thank Kevin Nagle, Todd Dunivant, and the Republic FC for being such a shining example in our city of community spirit, a great sport of what’s possible when the Republic FC becomes a Major League Franchise.”

Steinberg said he’s never given up on the city getting an MLS franchise after the Republic FC’s previous expansion bid fell apart.

The discussions between the investment group have Steinberg “hopeful” of the Republic FC becoming Sacramento’s second major league team, but admitted there’s a “long way to go.”

Steinberg, who has 17 months left in office, ensured an agreement will be made with an investment group before he leaves office.

“We have been working hard over the past year with the Stronach Group, with DRV, the group that owns the railyards and I will say that we have made significant progress on all of the elements that are necessary in order to complete an agreement with Major League Soccer,” Steinberg said.

The mayor attended the Republic FC’s home match on Wednesday against Phoenix Rising FC and sat next to the Republic FC’s chairman and CEO Kevin Nagle and Gillmore.

A potential new investor for Sacramento Republic FC could revive fans’ hopes of the team making it into MLS.

Stronach was also a former member of the House of Commons of Canada and formerly served in the role of vice chairman for Magna International, an auto parts manufacturing company founded by her father Frank Stronach.

Magna International is considered one of the largest automobile parts manufacturer in North America.

The Stronach Group owns horse racing venues in the Bay Area including the tracks in Santa Anita and the soon-to-be closed Golden Gate Fields. The company also owns the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland, which is most famous for hosting the Preakness Stakes.

“I’ve met Belinda and worked with her team and they’re extraordinary,” Steinberg said. “They have an incredible track record in business and she, Belinda Stronach herself, is a former public servant being a part of the Canadian Parliament.”

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“They’re looking for great opportunities and they see in Sacramento what we all know, which is this city is sports crazy and we’re hungry for Major League Soccer,” Steinberg said.

The Sacramento soccer club was previously announced as the 29th MLS expansion franchise in 2019, but the lead investor at the time, Ron Burkle, backed out due to business concerns tied to the COVID-19 pandemic, scrapping the team’s chances.

In April 2022, Republic FC CEO and owner Kevin Nagle announced plans of building a stadium downtown in hopes of a future MLS expansion. 

Before Steinberg’s news conference, FOX40 News received the following statements from Nagle and the Stronach Group:

As I have said all along, I have been steadfastly pursuing any and all options, including MLS, with the ultimate goal of serving our amazing SRFC fans and Sacramento community.

Not for one second have I stopped our diligence, research, as well as partnering with Mayor Steinberg and the city to ensure Sacramento gets all it deserves. I have said from the beginning Sacramento is a major league city. We have checked every box and continue to demonstrate that we are more than ready to go to the next level.

I have nothing but the utmost respect for The Stronach Group and am encouraged by the tenor of our conversations. And out of respect for those conversations and the sensitive nature of what is an ongoing process. I have no further comment at this time, other than to say I am incredibly motivated and excited for the future of soccer in Sacramento and the region.

Kevin Nagle, Sacramento Republic FC Chairman and CEO

We were made aware of this opportunity some time ago and have been exploring this and have had good discussions with the various stakeholders, including City officials, Sacramento Republic FC, and the league.

This is the type of investment that is of interest to us as we look to add to our existing sports and entertainment portfolio. However, the dynamics of exploring such an opportunity require that we refrain from discussing this broadly in the media.

Kevin Gilmore, EVP and Chief Operating Officer of The Stronach Group