Sacramento still bullish on MLS expansion hopes

The president of USL side Sacramento Republic says the market is first in line for Major League Soccer's next round of expansion.

When Major League Soccer confirmed Monday that Minnesota is in the driver's seat for an expansion franchise, the news appeared to bode poorly for Sacramento's hopes of landing a team of its own.

Yet optimism remains — with Mayor Kevin Johnson telling reporters Tuesday "it's not a matter of it, but when" MLS arrives in California's capital.

If the Minnesota club is confirmed and David Beckham's Miami franchise secures a soccer-specific stadium, those organizations would complete MLS commissioner Don Garber's goal of having 24 teams by 2020.

But Garber confirmed in a statement Monday that the league plans "to evaluate potential expansion beyond 24 clubs." During a news conference Tuesday, Kevin Nagle — the lead investor of USL side Sacramento Republic — said the market is at the top of MLS' list for the next round of expansion.

"We felt that we had done everything necessary to put ourselves in a position to be the next MLS city," Johnson said in quotes published by The Sacramento Bee. "While we would have liked Sacramento to be the first pick, we're still in the game and will continue to take as many shots on goal until the last whistle's blown. We believe, and we know, that our bid is really strong."

Johnson added: "I don't think this was a slight on Sacramento by any means. We know we have a strong bid. I think MLS and others would arguably say we're further along than those markets on a stadium, which is probably true. If those two markets deliver, great, we want to be the 25th. If something happens or they falter or things get sideways or they get delayed, then we want to be in a position to step in."

MLS is currently at 20 teams, with Atlanta and a second Los Angeles franchise scheduled to kick off in 2022.

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