Mayor Steinberg and Republic FC owner Kevin Nagle gather at the downtown rail yards to announce the construction of a soccer field to go along with Sacramento's bid for a Major League Soccer program. Randy Pench The Sacramento Bee
Mayor Steinberg and Republic FC owner Kevin Nagle gather at the downtown rail yards to announce the construction of a soccer field to go along with Sacramento's bid for a Major League Soccer program. Randy Pench The Sacramento Bee

City Beat

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City Beat

We may know a lot more about Sacramento’s Major League Soccer bid Thursday

By Ryan Lillis

rlillis@sacbee.com

December 20, 2017 03:49 PM

Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber indicated the league will announce the next steps in its drawn-out expansion process on Thursday.

In an interview with reporters in Nashville on Wednesday, Garber said, “(Thursday) we’re going to talk about what our timing will be, process timing. We’re not going to announce that second expansion team tomorrow.”

The statement indicates the league still has questions about the expansion applications from Sacramento, Cincinnati and Detroit. In a statement last week, the league said it was continuing to work with all four finalist cities.

The league’s concerns about Sacramento’s bid are believed to be focused on finances and whether the ownership group can cover the escalating cost of entering MLS and building a $250 million soccer stadium in the downtown railyard. The groups in Cincinnati and Detroit both face questions about their stadium proposals.

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Garber was in Nashville to announce that the city had been awarded the first of two expansion spots up for grabs this year. He said it was “incredible” how quickly Nashville’s MLS expansion bid came together, noting the city was not on the league’s radar as recently as the middle of last year.

Sacramento has been considered an expansion front-runner for more than two years. In the meantime, the league’s expansion fee has risen by tens of millions of dollars, to $150 million.

Republic FC officials are expected to provide an update on their bid process Thursday. Team officials have remained quiet on the topic of expansion since the MLS board of governors discussed the issue during its annual meeting in New York last week.

Jeff Berding, an executive with FC Cincinnati who is helping to lead that city’s expansion bid, wrote on Twitter earlier Wednesday that “our MLS opportunity is still very competitive.”

“The expansion franchise award was not as simple as a meeting, then announcement,” he wrote. “It is a process & involves ongoing communication.”

Ryan Lillis: 916-321-1085, @Ryan_Lillis