Sacramento wins MLS expansion next, no matter what

SACRAMENTO, CA - JULY 18: Jack Colback
SACRAMENTO, CA - JULY 18: Jack Colback /

TV market or fan support alone won’t make the next MLS expansion team. Sacramento or Detroit will have to prove they’ve got just the right mix.

MLS won’t say when they’re picking the next expansion team. But Sacramento, Detroit, Phoenix and others stand ready to show they’ve got the components for the job.

The contenders aren’t waiting to learn the deadline. The best mix right now rests in Sacramento. And that city will win either the 27th or 28th  MLS spot. Unless Sacramento gets the Columbus Crew slot when owner Anthony Precourt moves the team.

The Crew owner had wanted to move his team to Austin. The Texas city has nearly 1 million living in the metro area. That makes it one of the largest without a major pro sports team. But after many months of work, Precourt’s Austin deal remains undone. For that reason, Sacramento gets a look. Republic FC and supporters don’t want to get pushed aside again when MLS decides to pick their 27th and 28th teams. So they won’t.

If MLS chooses Detroit, San Diego, or another city like Phoenix to fill out their conferences, Sacramento still gets in because they’ll get the Crew.

Sacramento fills the MLS expansion bill

MLS Commissioner Don Garber has said for years the league needs to add Sacramento. He was most emphatic about it in 2015. Then, Garber said the city had the ownership, stadium plan and attendance in place.

Sacramento’s Republic FC this season averages 11,458. That makes them number two in the USL after FC Cincinnati, the most recent MLS expansion team with Nashville.

It’s Sacramento’s ownership group that got messy this latest MLS expansion round. At the start, the MLS version of Republic FC had a superstar owner in Meg Whitman. She’s the former eBay and Hewlett-Packard leader, among many other major companies. She and fellow billionaire Jed York somehow fell off Sacramento’s MLS slate.

These billionaire owners didn’t get replaced. But Sacramento now has the chance not only to add a superstar owner. The movement to place Sacramento Republic FC into the MLS can add an owner who already has his own team.

(Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon SMI/Corbis via Getty Images)
(Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon SMI/Corbis via Getty Images) /

Sacramento’s Precourt option

Anthony Precourt first tasted success in investment management energy equity investing through Precourt Capital Management. He formed Precourt Sports Ventures to move into team sports and other areas of sports entertainment.

For Republic FC’s front office and Sacramento’s soccer supporters, going with Precourt won’t feel like a full-on expansion operation at all. It won’t even happen as in a regular team move, such as when the first San Jose Earthquake moved and became the Houston Dynamo.

This will unfold more like a corporate merger. Republic FC people and Precourt people will have to set ground rules on how they proceed in working relationships.

Republic FC supporters at first will need to run by a used bookstore and get an old Business 101 text to keep up. Be sure to skim the chapter on corporate synergy.

After the move, the Crew land in a top-20 television market in Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto. That’s a leap up from Columbus’ market in the high 30s.

Next: Three things learned: New York City FC vs. Columbus Crew

As for Sacramento, they get Columbus Crew SC, 4th in the Eastern Conference. And they won’t need to worry about the expansion draft. Neither will they need to keep jumping through hoops, only to get bypassed for MLS expansion.

How’s that for corporate synergy?