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We’ve seen MLS expansion bumps before, don’t panic Sacramento Republic fans

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There’s precedent that the expansion process isn’t always smooth.

MLS: Press Event at The Bank D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

A rather alarming report dropped Friday that probably freaked out some Sacramento Republic fans and the prospects of actually entering MLS one day.

The club did not make a scheduled payment in December and the MLS ownership group haven’t yet formalized their long-form expansion agreement with MLS, according to The Athletic on Friday.

What exactly does all that mean? Is the expansion bid in jeopardy? Is it dead?

An MLS spokesperson provided the following comment to Indomitable City Soccer over the weekend when asked about the report from The Athletic: “Major League Soccer continues to work with Ron Burkle to finalize the long-form expansion agreement and remains focused on a successful launch of Sacramento Republic FC in 2023, along with the opening of a new stadium at the Railyards.”

In reading subsequent reporting and talking to sources with direct knowledge of the situation in recent days, it does not sound as though the Sacramento MLS expansion slot is in major jeopardy at this point. There is an agreement in place, it’s been announced publicly, and both the club and MLS are planning to proceed.

So what do we make of this? Is this a big deal or a tempest in a teacup?

Obviously, we’ll know for sure with hindsight, but I think an illustrative example could be that of Inter Miami, a 2020 MLS expansion team.

Miami originally received their expansion bid via the clause in David Beckham’s era-defining Designated Player contract with the LA Galaxy. The Miami team was announced in Feb. 2014 amid great fanfare.

And then...it was a very bumpy ride for the next six years. At multiple points along the way, the expansion team were casting about for a place to put a stadium (which hasn’t fully been resolved, by the way) and MLS Commissioner Don Garber publicly warned them to get their act together more than once. It honestly looked like Miami would not get an expansion team even after the announcement more than once.

Still, they white-knuckled it and got the job done, finally launching the on-field team in 2020. Their run-up to launch was the longest in MLS history, and if Sac Republic still enter MLS in 2023 that will be two and a half years shorter than the announcement-to-launch span of Inter Miami.

Again, my conversations with sources indicated the events reported on Sac Republic in recent days are seen as a blip at this stage, not a red flag. Is there a potential that this is truly worrisome for Sacramento’s MLS prospects? It’s possible. Does it seem like the expansion bid is doomed? Not at this point. And hopefully Sacramento will be playing Inter Miami in MLS in 2023, hopefully with a few less hiccups along the way.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.