SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — The troubles behind the Sacramento Republic’s bid for a Major League Soccer franchise were made clear on Thursday, and it all comes down to money.
The revelations come a day after MLS officially named Nashville as one of its two cities for expansion. The league has said it will not decide on the second team until next year. Sacramento was named as a finalist with Cincinnati and Detroit earlier this month.
It’s been a long road for Sacramento in its hunt for an MLS team. The city’s had major league ambitions since the Sacramento Republic won the USL Pro championship in the team’s inaugural season in 2014. Since then, it’s been a series of deadlines and requests from MLS.
During a press conference on Thursday, city and team leaders revealed a major pothole on that road.
The city’s bid is in need of investors, and not just any investors—billionaires, plural. Additionally, two of the big money investors have pulled out while MLS considers its next franchise.
Sacramento Republic lead investor Kevin Nagle and Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg told a crowd outside Sacramento City Hall on Thursday that they need more money.
“MLS has raised fair and reasonable questions about steps that we need to take to assure the league we can deliver strong footing initially and in the long term,” Nagle said.
Nagle confirmed one-time partners Meg Whitman and Jed York are not part of the final bid for a Sacramento MLS franchise.
“They’re not in; they’re not in; they’ve been terrific along the way,” he said.
Nagle confirmed he will stay on as lead investor, but laid out a three-point plan calling for more new major investors, new minority investors and more community support.
He told the crowd that MLS executives did not give him an exact dollar amount he needs to reach.
Meanwhile, Sacramento’s soccer-specific downtown arena remains ready to build. But Nagle said the MLS decision delay will bring that construction to a halt.
“Well, right now for the moment, it’s still continuing, but we’re winding it down until we know a little bit more,” he said.
The mayor’s office reiterated that there are no plans for public financing in the bid or the stadium.
Nashville was awarded a team on Thursday, though it’s unclear whether they will be the one expansion team starting in 2019 with Los Angeles FC, one of two expansion teams slated to start playing in 2020.
The wild card in the process is Miami. English soccer superstar David Beckham was guaranteed a chance at a team if MLS expanded, and he’s got his eyes on Miami. Unfortunately for him, a stadium and multiple partnerships over the years have been fleeting.
But while the odds may have gotten longer, Sacramento’s been in tough spots with teams and arenas before. It was a long, protracted fight to keep the Sacramento Kings in town.
Now Sacramento’s soccer dreams need a little help from deep pockets.