It seems inevitable that a Major League Soccer team is on it’s way to Sacramento. This should not be news to most people who follow the Republic, but the wait for the new team may be shorter than expected.
It should be understood that Sacramento and St. Louis are the front runners for the expansion team. Both have semi-pro teams that are successful, and both have extremely strong ownership.
That being said, Sacramento is the better destination. With our growing tourism industry and massive soccer fanbase, this is a perfect city for soccer.
One would argue that the St. Louis has a superior soccer culture. After all, they have hosted six major international friendlies in the last six years, and all sold out their respective stadiums.
However, saying Sacramento cannot compete with The Gateway City strictly because of fan interest is not plausible. There are over 100,000 youth soccer players in the Sacramento area alone, totaling more than the entire state of Oregon.
In addition, St Louis is only a three and a half hour drive from two other MLS teams, and five from another two. Sacramento’s nearest is San Jose, and the Los Angeles team is relatively close, however, this market is hungrier for a team than anywhere else.
In 2015, Sac Republic moved into newly built Papa Murphy’s Park, with an expanded capacity of 11,442. In 2017, Sacramento went 13-12-7, missing the playoffs, but averaging a sellout crowd every night, with attendance at 11,596.
Now, the team is pushing for a new, 20,000 capacity stadium in the unused downtown rail yards. The company commissioned for the construction, HNTB Corp, built one of the best minor league baseball parks in America (Raley Field), and the most technologically-advanced stadium in the NFL (Levi’s Stadium).
The project is scheduled for completion in 2021, opposed to the 2022 completion date for the proposed St. Louis stadium. However, one factor could pull the Capital City down in this race for a franchise.
St. Louis’ potential ownership would be made up of a majority of women. The MLS tends to favor a more diverse ownership group, and the city can absolutely deliver that.
Overall, both cities will most likely have a team within the next decade. That being said, Sacramento has a stronger fan base and are better prepared to deliver facilities. This makes our city the best home for a new MLS team.