It's not every day that Sacrameto closes down an entire city block to put on a show and welcome a single man to town. But then again, a visit from MLS Commissioner Don Garber is exactly what Sacramento has been waiting for since its inaugural USL season two years ago. A huge crowd of media and Republic fans filled the closed-off block of L street between 15th and 16th, filling the area with Old Glory Red shirts, scarves, and even the occasional giant picture of Don Garber's head.
There were some Don Garber fans at the rally today pic.twitter.com/rH7vSu13oW— Evan Ream (@EvanReam) April 14, 2016
"I don't really know what to expect here," said Republic fan and Levee Patrol member Noah Bean. "I just figure this might be something that's a big enough deal where eventually, as a long-time supporter, I'll want to have been here. I just want to hear what the commissioner has to say. Sacramento has obviously done everything they've asked."
While today was not the expansion announcement that some had hoped for, Garber did come with something to say. He confirmed that MLS is, in fact, going to be expanding beyond its announced 24 teams and go to 28 teams. Although expansion to 28 teams has been mentioned before, this was the first time that Garber or anyone else has confirmed it.
According to Garber, there is no timetable for the next round of expansion, but the league has established an internal process and set up a committee. He also said that it is likely that the next round of expansion will begin around 2020, after Atlanta and Minnesota join in 2017, followed by Miami and LA in 2018.
Garber also had something to say about Sacramento specifically, saying that he and the league hope and expect that Sacramento will be one of the teams in the next round, although he stopped short of saying that it was definitely happening. He did confirm that a Sacramento-hosted MLS All-Star Game would likely be part of any Sacramento MLS expansion.
He described the Sacramento market as one that has "punched above its weight", reflecting the fact that prior to the 2014 season, the city was not on the MLS expansion radar at all. When asked how the Sacramento bid stands when compared to others like San Antonio, Detroit, San Diego, Saint Louis, and Austin, Garber declined to give a number but said that it ranked "very high."
What do you think about Garber's announcement that MLS is going to expand to 28 teams? Sound off in the comments below.