Sacramento are looking for a route into MLS. Will it be via an expansion as a leading contender or could they sneak in as the Columbus Crew look to move?
Top MLS expansion contenders Detroit, Las Vegas and Phoenix are among a host of other hopefuls working hard to get MLS backing for a team.
High on that list would stand Sacramento. They’ve been a top MLS expansion contender before. More than once. And they would be a pure, leading contender this time. With juggernaut FC Cincinnati off the expansion board, Sacramento doesn’t stand in any MLS expansion contender’s shadow.
In the final group of MLS expansion contenders, Sacramento shines as the best of the bunch.
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However, Sacramento has gotten tired of waiting. They have everything in place for the Columbus Crew to move there, that is, if Precourt Sports Ventures LLC gets tired of waiting for Austin to straighten things out for the Crew to move.
Sacramento Republic FC of the USL provides a built-in supporter network, such as FC Cincinnati does for that organization’s transition to MLS.
Sacramento Republic FC also stands second in USL attendance only to FC Cincinnati. Through Week 21 they drew over 125,000 and averaged more than 11,000.
Behind Sacramento in third place stands Nashville SC, a confirmed MLS expansion city.
Meanwhile, Austin has struggled with the Columbus Crew deal several times. Precourt’s favorite venue with both a water view and downtown skyline got nixed. The current $200 million, 24-acre proposal: McKalla Place in North Austin.
Hundreds of opponents signed on to argue the proposal. The Precourt’s concern remains to bring a major sports franchise to Austin, the only media market of its size without one.
Throughout the process, Austin continues to prove not quite ready for primetime sports. Austin soccer fans for weeks touted an August 9 City Council vote to clear Precourt’s building a soccer stadium on city land.
They crowded council chambers on that date with supporters and opponents. The council ignored a half-dozen proposals to forget the stadium. Then they moved to once more delay any decision at all.
The City Council once more let supporters down and left the Precourt group lost in the Valley of Decision.
Sacramento stands ready either to receive the Columbus Crew or retake a top MLS expansion spot. Sacramento already has the planning work done for a 20,000-seat stadium in the Railyards, an urban innovation center. Seating can expand for another 2,000 fans. Fans would arrive from a nearby light rail stop. It is an attractive proposal.
But how did Sacramento’s name come up amidst the Austin effort?
Lobbyist Richard Suttle, working for MLS and Precourt, said that if it takes months to see if the McKalla site doesn’t work, he knows there are other cities prepared to rain incentives for an MLS team. That means Anthony Precourt knows this, too.
About the same time as Suttle’s comment, an ESPN analyst focused the Crew’s move on Sacramento.
Sacramento narrowly missed the last call for MLS expansion. They had everything in place but a superstar owner leading the team. They now have a superstar owner-in-waiting: billionaire Ron Burkle. He’d be joined by Sacramento Kings player Omri Casspi and an assortment of other magnates if needed.
Should Sacramento want one final shot at MLS expansion, the smart-money stands ready to pile on with them. No city stands better prepared than Sacramento. All the leaders and supporters need do is pick a number. Will it be 27 or 28? Or could it even be the Crew? Time, in the end, will tell.