Yesterday, Sac Soccer & Entertainment Holdings (SSEH) and the Sacramento Republic FC (Republic) formally announced that they had come to an agreement for SSEH to acquire the Republic. Given the hullabaloo from early February – where the MLS expansion bid submitted by SSEH did not include the Republic – yesterday’s announcement that the Republic name, brand, crest and identity would officially be part of the Major League Soccer (MLS) bid moving forward came as a massive relief for many. But was there ever a doubt? I say no.
When I first heard that SSEH had submitted the proposal without the Republic name, I, like many of you, was surprised. The Republic shortly thereafter issued a strongly-worded statement in response to the omission, which sent Sacramento and the Republic faithful into a frenzy. Social media battle lines were drawn with fans siding with Warren Smith and the Republic (#NoRepublicNoParty), while vitriol was being spewed at SSEH lead investor Kevin Nagle. Emotions were understandably high, because the stakes were high.
I get it. MLS Commissioner Don Garber was on record saying he hoped and expected Sacramento to be part of the League’s next expansion, private funding for the stadium was locked in, support for the Club was through the roof (still is), and SSEH and the Republic positioned Sacramento as a viable market. Everything up to that point had been smooth sailing.
But there is this thing in life called a negotiation. We all participate in them every day in one fashion or another, and while it was unfortunate that Nagle and Smith’s negotiation played out publicly, it was in my view part of the process. This is not to suggest it wasn’t contentious, because it clearly was. But for someone who has been covering the Republic since their inaugural season and their quest to join MLS, there is absolutely no scenario in my mind where SSEH would have moved forward without the Republic brand.
There’s just too many bright people on both sides that understand what the Republic means to the fans and Sacramento to mess it up. I also have a hunch that MLS has been quietly working in the background advising both parties to ensure that they would get to this point, because they too recognize all the time, money and effort that has gone into Sacramento’s bid.
Yesterday’s developments do help the Sacramento bid, but the league wasn’t sitting back in their offices in New York thinking…OK, Sacramento is now back on track. Let’s go ahead and elevate them back up our expansion list. Even with 11 other cities jumping into the MLS expansion fray, Sacramento has remained a top contender. Nothing has changed my mind on that front.
When Commissioner Garber makes an announcement in December (maybe sooner) on MLS expansion, don’t be the least surprised to hear Sacramento as the first city granted an expansion team. Until then, the work on making Sacramento to MLS a reality continues in earnest as part of the Republic’s #BringItHome strategy/campaign.
Could it all be for not in the end? I suppose, but I’m putting my money on Sacramento.