Sacramento is hoping to be the next city to jump aboard the MLS expansion train, even though their newest professional team has yet to play one minute.
A report in The Sacramento Bee on Thursday detailed plans by Sacramento Republic FC president Warren Smith to land a MLS franchise in 2016, saying the club has already kicked off a campaign to convince the league that Sacramento is a first-rate market for top-level professional soccer.
Sacramento Republic FC will start play in USL PRO in 2014, and as detailed in the report, have yet to sign a player or complete their stadium.
“I know one thing: If you don’t get up and say you’re going to do it, you’re not,” Smith told the Bee. “The best time to get a team is when a league is growing, and MLS is in a high-growth mode right now.”
MLS Commissioner Don Garber has said he wants the league to expand from 19 to 24 teams by 2020. The league announced earlier this season that New York FC would be its first expansion team since Montreal joined the league in 2012. MLS also recently awarded Orlando an expansion franchise after just three seasons in USL PRO.
Smith said in the report that the club has already sold 2,500 season tickets and has set a target of 5,000 before the season begins. Former MLS midfielder and Chivas USA and Toronto FC boss Predrag Radosavljevic, better know as Preki, will be the team's first head coach.
The community has seemingly embraced the team as well, with the report pointing to a YouTube video (above) of a chant produced by Republic FC has been viewed more than 24,000 times and a sell-out crowd of more than 14,000 that attended a July match at Raley Field, the city’s minor league baseball field, between English Premier League team Norwich City and Dorados de Sinaloa of Mexico.
“The stage is set,” Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson was quoted as saying in the article. “Sacramento is a market that’s proven itself and can support more than one professional franchise. We want everyone to see what we already know, that we are a big soccer community, and if we send that strong message like we have in basketball and Triple-A baseball, then we think we’re right in line.”