It was a journey more than 100 years in the making.
All the way back in 1902, the California State Football Association was formed, a full 11 years before even the United States Soccer Federation came into existence. Now, over a century later, the city that long ago fell in love with the game is getting a Major League Soccer franchise.
Sacramento Republic, set to join MLS in 2022, will continue the deep history of soccer in the city at the highest level.
It's a club that's already steeped in that history.
Papa Murphy's Park - current home of Sacramento Republic FC
The team’s academy manager Jeremy Field has hit nearly every stop in Sacramento soccer. He grew up playing high school soccer in the city, then stuck around to play at Sacramento State. Later he went on to play for the Sacramento Knights, an indoor soccer league team, as well as the Sacramento Scorpions, which briefly played in the United States Interregional Soccer League, one of the forerunners of the United Soccer League.
He’s quick to add that he played a few amateur pub leagues, too.
“As far as Sacramento soccer, I’ve gone through every little phase you can go through,” Field told MLSsoccer.com. “If we had an MLS team 20 years ago, that would have been great.”
The club's [executive] office also resonates with the legacy of soccer in the California capital. It's there that a picture hangs from 1924 of a Washington Elementary School team.Republic president and COO Ben Gumpert recalls it being one of the first things he noticed when he initially walked into the office.
“There are leagues that started as cultural leagues. … This goes back decades upon decades,” Gumpert said. “It’s always neat, this has been about bringing Sacramento together, that’s our club’s mission. That’s what we do.”
Renderings of new Sacramento Republic FC stadium
Still, there have been some notable changes to soccer in Sacramento over the years, as Field can testify.
“It’s funny, some of the teams I played on in the 90s, our ultras section was like 10 people,” Field said. “To see it now, with so many dedicated fans, it’s been awesome.”
For years, Sacramento have been immersed in the MLS expansion process, but it took a few tries for it to all come together. All the while, playing in USL, the Republic just kept grinding, becoming more deeply rooted in the community and building traditions with the club.
It’s what Sacramento are all about.
“It’s definitely made us as a club, both as a business and on the field, stronger,” Scott Moak, VP of Community Investment, said. “You get knocked down nine times, do you get up 10? It’s created this callus that we’ve become better for.”
Republic FC began creating their own history upon their founding in 2014. As they continued to chase MLS expansion, the Republic won a USL title in their first year of existence. After finally being awarded a club on Monday, the Republic are ready to take the next step in Sacramento.
“When you look at the Sacramento soccer history through the Knights, the indoor soccer league, there’s so many ways it’s connected different generations, different cultures in Sacramento,” Gumpert said. “We love that. We’re excited to build on it.”