COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Sacramento Republic are optimistic about their chances of gaining entry into Major League Soccer.
The USL team got an early Christmas gift last week when MLS commissioner Don Garber said that the league intends to expand to 28 teams. Sacramento has touted its efforts to meet the expansion requirements in an effort to make inclusion in MLS an inevitability.
"I think Sacramento will be very high on our list of next clubs to come into the league," Garber said during his state of the league address last week. "Now, we're going to continue to monitor what goes on there, we'll pay close attention to how they continue to develop their USL team, but I want to applaud the city for what they've done to support the Republic's desire to be in our league."
Last week, the Sacramento City Council approved plans for the team's stadium to be built at the Sacramento rail yards. The ownership group contains deep-pocketed investors that include the likes of Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive and San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York. On the field, the club continues to fill Bonney Field. The team averaged 11,323 fans per game, making them the only USL side whose average attendance was in five figures.
"We have so much momentum, and it's hard to get these moments," said Kunal Merchant, who is working as a special adviser to Republic managing partner Kevin Nagle. "These moments don't last, and you want to harness the energy of fans who are excited."
Merchant described how when the city council was meeting to discuss the club's stadium plan, an informal vote was taken to gauge support of those in attendance. Over 200 people voiced their support. Merchant said there were no dissenting votes.
"That never happens in Sacramento," he said. "It's a government town, everybody is involved in politics, that never happens. So we have a moment that we have to harness on the team side that Warren is going to do, but even on the new stadium side, we want to take advantage of that but also be cognizant of bigger business decisions that you have to make based on timeline."