On October 21, 2019, Sacramento Republic FC became the 29th franchise in Major League Soccer. After many years of success in the United Soccer League’s Championship division, the club was finally invited to the big dance and will join MLS in 2022.
Now if there was promotion and relegation, Republic FC would have been in the MLS in 2014, but that’s a different story. The idea of having a professional soccer team in the Central Valley is exciting to many local communities. The Central Valley is one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world. Many of the people that work in this region come from areas in the world where soccer is dominant. There is a large population of Mexican and Portuguese in the valley and this has cultivated a rich soccer culture.
Republic FC resonates more with the traditional soccer cultures of the world where the club represents a region and a city instead of a mascot’s nickname.
Professional American sports teams have historically used names like the Cosmos, Rowdies, or dare I say.... Earthquakes. Yet, I believe nothing creates more loyalty than having a club named after the place its from. Republic FC is Central California.
For the future, we hope that the vision for the club is to be the best in the world. That means creating a world class training facility with a residency academy. That way, the vast amount of undeserved regions in the Central Valley get scouted for the best youth talent and get to live in dorm like settings. The youth academy is already performing at a high level and recruiting from top level youth clubs, but creating a residency program would take it to the next level. It would create a unique club culture and make it easier for families that would have to otherwise travel one or two hours for practice on a daily basis.
Republic FC doesn’t have to look far for examples. Real Salt Lake Academy has a residency program and its own charter school. This will allow the Republic to recruit further down south of the Central Valley and house the players close to their training facility. With 6.5 million people in the Valley and the fastest growing region in the state, there should be no shortage of talented players.
A residency program in the capital of California, providing the highest quality coaching and education would be refreshing and revolutionary for our region. A world class training facility will help recruit the big names nationally. The top players need the best facilities to get better, and having the best facility in Northern California would be an asset to the Central Valley soccer community.
An example would be Pinnacle National Development Center — the home of Sporting Kansas City. This facility is also home to the U.S. Soccer National Coaching Education Center, a soccer-college like institution which teaches our national level coaches, players and referees. If Republic FC can achieve getting accepted into the MLS, this facility will make them second to none.
Let us not forget the excitement the new stadium will create among fans. It will certainly enhance the experience and create a hostile a environment for opposing teams. Republic FC getting more connected with youth teams all around the Central Valley will make the best youth players dream of playing for Republic FC and in its stadium. It is also imperative, that Republic FC creates a professional women’s program, with an elite residency academy to go along with it.
This creates a big question, would the soccer community in the Central Valley drive one, two, or even three hours to watch a Republic FC game? Well that depends on how ingrained Republic FC commits with Central Valley communities. They need to have a presence with local clubs in Stockton, Modesto, Turlock, Merced, Fresno and even Bakersfield. They cannot ignore these communities and expect to conquer the MLS with only the Sacramento region on their side.
Republic FC should plant seeds all over the Central Valley, water them by connecting local youth clubs and Republic FC coaches through curriculum trainings and scouting visitations. Letting those roots grow would create relationships and establish loyalty. The Central Valley is already heavily recruited by the Earthquakes, Sounders, and Real Salt Lake, since most of the Central Valley is not in the Earthquakes sphere of homegrown territory (75 mile radius of Avaya Stadium). If we create a sphere around the future Railyard Stadium, it will reach as far south as Modesto, all the way west to parts of San Francisco, North to Oroville, and east towards Placerville and Sonora.
This will certainly be in conflict with the Earthquakes. The gerrymandering of MLS territories will certainly be a hot issue. Eliminating homegrown territories, and creating an electrifying home environment in a new stadium would also help draw the soccer community and new fans to experience a Republic FC game. Especially if they can see their own local homegrown boys (and girls) on the field.
So what does this mean to the Central Valley? It means opportunity for the academy to showcase Central Valley talent, and it means we have a platform to perform at the highest level. It means representing a diverse, agricultural, hard working region to the masses. It means we are part of the Indomitable City. Republic FC means everything.