SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) – Amid the recent setbacks in the planned Major League Soccer expansion in Sacramento, many questions still remain about the future of professional soccer in the capital.
First, it was Ron Burkle at the end of February who pulled the plug on his deal as the lead investor to bring MLS to Sacramento.
Then a few days later, Ben Gumpert stepped down as chief operating officer for Sacramento Republic FC.
Many in the region cringed thinking the MLS dream would soon collapse.
“We can’t give up,” said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg. “We didn’t give up on the Kings and we’re not giving up on Major League Soccer.”
Steinberg has been involved in both processes for the city and he explained Wednesday the next steps are fairly straightforward.
“We have the advantage of being able to say, ‘Look at the foundation we’ve laid, look at the parameters of the agreement that have already been established,’” Steinberg said. “What we need is a plug-and-a-play from an investor to then help us finish the last piece of this.”
“We have a shovel-ready stadium project site, an agreement with the city,” explained Todd Dunivant, Sacramento Republic FC president and general manager. “All those things are in place and that work has been done. So the sooner we can secure that investor, the sooner we’re going to be playing in Major League Soccer.”
Dunivant told FOX40 the team and the city have been speaking with new potential investors almost daily.
“We’ve been encouraged from the response that has come from the investment community, yeah,” Dunivant said. “There has been a lot of good conversations that are happening now and they are going to continue to happen.”
“We have to identify one, or several, potential investors that are real, that have been vetted, that want to enter into becoming a Major League Soccer owner in Sacramento, and then we’ll connect more formally with the league,” Steinberg said.
MLS awarded Sacramento an expansion franchise in 2019 and the league reaffirmed its commitment on the day Ron Burkle backed out.
The remaining question is whether the expansion can still happen for Sacramento Republic FC as originally planned for 2023.
“Being indomitable is our core value,” Dunivant said. “This is what we do and this is a time for us to step up and for everybody to step up. And we’ve been incredibly encouraged with the response up until now and we’re going to get this over the line.”
“If we pick up from where we have left off and really understand what happened, which is we’ve already negotiated the parameters of an agreement, a lot of work has been done, the stadium is ready to be built, ready to put shovels into the ground. We only need one piece, let’s go after that one piece,” Steinberg said.
Steinberg said the construction of the new soccer stadium at the Railyards will not begin before a new lead investor has been officially brought in and approved by MLS because the stadium project is, for the most part, a privately-funded project.