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NWSL commissioner confirms Sacramento expansion status remains in flux

Takeaway is it’s still complicated.

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The status of the Sacramento NWSL expansion bid that was announced by league commissioner Lisa Baird in January has seemed to be hanging by a thread, if that, ever since lead investor Ron Burkle pulled out of his commitment to bring an MLS expansion team to Sacramento and build a new stadium at the Railyards. On Wednesday, we got confirmation that the status of Sacramento in NWSL very much remains uncertain.

Baird spoke to reporters during a conference call Wednesday ahead of the start of the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup on Friday, and she acknowledged there’s much to be decided, although she was not full of specific details on the matter.

“At this time, I don’t have a formal update with that, we’re definitely in discussions,” Baird said when asked about Sacramento. “And, you know, when the time is right, we’ll definitely be very open and transparent with what we’re going to do, but at this time I just don’t have a formal update.”

In addition to Baird’s announcement in January, the league had also announced Sacramento will be taking part in the NWSL expansion draft in December, alongside 2022 expansion team Angel City FC, based in Los Angeles. But while Angel City seem to be announcing news and hiring more staff on a weekly basis at this point, Sacramento has not even had a local announcement or any kind of internet presence to drive interest in an expansion team.

Baird said after the regular season schedule for 2021 is finalized, the league will tackle the expansion draft details again.

Baird was asked if the slot for Sacramento and/or Burkle could be put off past 2022?

“Again, I’m not going to make any formal update at this time, we are in continual conversation,” she responded. “The governors will be involved in all decisions going forward. Being a more complicated situation in Sacramento, than we had envisioned on so we’re dealing with that, I have been in communications with them. And, again, you will know what happens as we reach a formal recommendation and decision.”

Baird says the league continues to work with Burkle and Matt Alvarez, the secondary investor in the NWSL expansion bid, but the current priority is to launch the new and moved teams for this year, Racing Louisville and KC NWSL. The rumor, that Sacramento’s expansion slot could move to San Diego, was not specifically addressed by Baird on the call.

“Remember, we’re still a relatively small league. We’ve generated so much news thanks to all of your exposure with everything we’ve been doing we’re relatively small league with very limited staff that the teams we have right now, Louisville Kansas City, Angel City.

“Ron Burkle, Matt Alvarez, we’ve got to make sure that they’re on-boarded successfully, that those teams are done, so Louisville and Kansas City is our priority right now to make sure that is up and running smoothly. And we’re going to finalize our plans for the 2022 Expansion Draft later in the year,” she added.

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