SACRAMENTO, Calif. – At just 6 years old, Ryan Mac is a passionate a supporter of the Sacramento Republic as you'll find. For as long as he can remember, he has spent game days cheering on his beloved hometown team and even defying his tender years, drum in hand, to lead a whole supporters' group, Tower Bridge Battalion.
For as long as he can remember, he has also been waiting, hoping, that Sacramento's long journey to reach Major League Soccer would finally come to fruition.
In downtown Sacramento on Monday, Ryan was there, banging his drum as ever. It was not a game day, though. Instead it was a celebration more important than any single 90 minutes. Ryan was walking around happy as can be with his dad, Mike, trailing behind, as father and son celebrated the announcement that MLS awarded an expansion team to their beloved club. The four years they had been waiting for this moment made it all the sweeter.
It takes a Republic, as the club would proudly say.
"He said 'Dad, I want to lead The Battalion,'" Mike told MLSsoccer.com on Monday from The Republic's Indomitable Block Party, taking over downtown Sacramento. "So, we got him a drum and he's been leading The Battalion for about a year now. He knows every chant, he loves it. He's fantastic. We've been following this club from the very first day to today, since he was a baby. He's grown up with the club."
Mike and his son Ryan were two of many to attend festivities in Sacramento, all as the city celebrated their club winning an MLS expansion bid. The Block Party featured Republic fans from all walks of life coalescing for an evening of local food, beer, games and, most importantly, their club.
Perhaps not all 6-year-olds in Sacramento are leading chants at Republic matches, but the larger point of Ryan and Mike Mac's story isn't unique. It's a community-based club and it was a celebration for the city.
"It's super exciting, it means a whole new phase of growth for Sacramento," Elizabeth Zennadi said, with her own 4-year-old son Tristan smiling along. "Finally, it's happening, but I'm a Sacramento native so I never lost hope. It took some time, but I was confident in our leadership. I was confident we'd get it done."
The process wasn't linear and it wasn't easy.
They were one of 12 groups to submit an expansion application in January 2017, but saw Cincinnati, Nashville, Miami, St. Louis and Austin all confirmed as new MLS cities before their time arrived. They had come close, and MLS Commissioner Don Garber famously said "when, not if" Sacramento would be awarded a franchise. Then they finally got over the hump.
On Monday's huge day, it drew Republic fans from all over the area.
"I went to the first-ever home game they had. Once we got a team, I was so excited," said Ben, a 21-year-old student in Reno who made the 132-mile drive just to partake in the celebration. "I came back today just for this. This is a huge moment for the city, I just had to be here."
Now, with their journey to winning an expansion bid behind them, Sacramento Republic look to take the next step. Expect Ryan to be there every step of the way, banging away at his drum.
"We know what we have here is special, we have something the kids can look up to," Mike said. "We have something we can build on, we never wavered our hope."