Updated Feb. 26, 2021
After seven years of progress and setbacks, fans rejoiced when Sacramento Republic FC was awarded a Major League Soccer franchise in October 2019.
But once again, the city has encountered a hurdle: the expansion team’s main investor, billionaire Ron Burkle, announced Feb. 26 that he was backing out of the deal.
MLS officials said the league would “evaluate next steps” for a team in Sacramento, which is still slated to begin play in 2022. And Mayor Darrell Steinberg said the city would work with the league to find a new investor.
With yet another bump in the road, here’s a look back at Republic FC’s journey to MLS.
December 3, 2012
United Soccer League Pro announces that a Sacramento team would join the league for the 2014 season.
July 18, 2013
The new franchise officially announces it will be called Sacramento Republic FC during the first-ever Sacramento Soccer Day.
Months before the team would take the field, Republic FC’s promoters start laying out ambitions to join Major League Soccer.
“I know one thing: If you don’t get up and say you’re going to do it, you’re not,” Republic FC President Warren Smith told The Sacramento Bee. “The best time to get a team is when a league is growing, and MLS is in a high-growth mode right now.”
April 26, 2014
Republic FC makes its home debut before a sellout crowd of 20,231 at Sacramento City College’s Hughes Stadium.
June 20, 2014
The team plays its first game at its new 8,000-seat, soccer-only stadium at Cal Expo.
September 4, 2014
Sacramento Kings minority owner Kevin Nagle buys a controlling interest in Republic FC.
September 19, 2014
MLS President and Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott and an MLS contingent travel to Sacramento for what would become the first of several visits.
September 27, 2014
Sacramento Republic FC wins the USL Pro championship its inaugural year, the culmination of a first season that set attendance records in the league.
December 6, 2015
MLS announces plans to grow to 28 teams. At this time, the league had 20 clubs, with plans in place to bring on Atlanta, Minnesota, Los Angeles and Miami over the next three years.
April 14, 2016
MLS Commissioner Don Garber visits Sacramento, confirming the league's plans to expand to 28 teams with an indefinite timetable.
“We believe and hope and expect that Sacramento will part of that next round of expansion,” he said.
November 10, 2016
Sacramento City Council approves a proposal for a development project that would include a 20,000-capacity MLS stadium at the city's historic downtown railyards.
January 31, 2017
Kevin Nagle officially submits Republic FC’s MLS expansion bid under the name of Sac Soccer & Entertainment Holdings, a corporation he controls. Former Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman, her husband, Griff Harsh, and San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York initially pledged to join the ownership roster — but withdrew before the final bid was submitted.
May 15, 2017
After disputes between the team owners over the club's brand, Sac Soccer & Entertainment Holdings acquires Sacramento Republic FC, bringing together the two groups behind the team’s push for elevation to MLS. City announces #BringItHome initiative to advance the effort.
November 29, 2017
MLS names Sacramento as one of four cities that could be selected for two new MLS teams. The other finalists are Nashville, Cincinnati and Detroit.
December 20, 2017
MLS picks Nashville as its next expansion city, bringing number of clubs to 25. Republic FC says the team’s expansion effort needs a stronger funding plan.
May 24, 2018
Sacramento Republic FC loses second of two MLS expansion spots to FC Cincinnati.
“We control our own destiny and remain firmly in the game,” Mayor Darrell Steinberg wrote in an email to CapRadio after initial reports that Cincinnati would claim the spot. “We continue to work with the Sacramento Republic to recruit new investors to bolster the overall strength and capacity of our ownership group. We also remain in ongoing communication with Commissioner Garber’s Office.”
January 22, 2019
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg announces that billionaire Ron Burkle has agreed to buy controlling interest in Sacramento Republic FC, satisfying an MLS requirement that expansion teams be controlled by deep-pocketed investors. Officials said Burkle has also agreed to buy Republic FC’s proposed MLS stadium site and adjacent land in the Railyards to build an entertainment district.
“We will make our case, our strong case, for Sacramento to become the next Major League Soccer franchise,” Steinberg told a capacity crowd at the annual State of Downtown breakfast.
April 4, 2019
The team presents its plan along with city officials for a $252 million stadium in the downtown railyards. It includes a $33 million contribution from the city, where it would refund property taxes and waive fees and administrative costs. MLS says Sacramento and St. Louis are in the running to become the league's 28th franchise.
April 9, 2019
Sacramento City Council approves an approximately $33 million investment to build a soccer stadium at the downtown railyards site. This investment does not include public dollars, unlike its contribution to the Golden 1 Center. The stadium will only be built if MLS grants Sacramento a pro team.
April 18, 2019
Sacramento and St. Louis are invited to submit formal bids for franchises as Major League Soccer's Board of Governors formally unveils plans to expand the league to 30 teams.
August 20, 2019
St. Louis is awarded an MLS expansion franchise, taking one of the spots Sacramento had been competing for. The team is expected to join the league in 2022.
October 16, 2019
The Republic FC reveals that there will be a “major soccer announcement” on Monday with Mayor Darrell Steinberg and some “special guests.”
We will continue to respect the MLS expansion process and remain confident about the future of our club and our city. We look forward to sharing more information in the days ahead. (2/2)— x - Republic FC (@SacRepublicFC) October 16, 2019
October 21, 2019
Major League Soccer officially announces Sacramento will be it's 29th franchise at a downtown event attended by MLS Commissioner Don Garber, city officials and the team’s owners, billionaire investor Ron Burkle, and also Gov. Gavin Newsom.
“In a few short years, your club has captured the hearts and minds of soccer fans in this city and throughout the region, and the entire sport has taken notice,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. “There is no doubt that this is a soccer city.”
The Republic is expected to make its MLS debut in 2022 and plans to host matches at a soon-to-be-under-construction, $252 million stadium in the city’s downtown railyards.
February 26, 2021
Billionaire Ron Burkle, the main investor in Sacramento's MLS expansion team, backs out of the deal, citing "issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic," according to a statement from the league.
In a statement, MLS officials said the league would “evaluate next steps” for a team in Sacramento, which is still slated to begin play in 2022.
"After working for many years to bring an MLS team to Sacramento, the League continues to believe it can be a great MLS market," the statement reads. "In the coming days, the League will work with Mayor Darrell Steinberg to evaluate possible next steps for MLS in Sacramento."
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