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Sacramento's MLS hopes rest with finding new lead investor

Republic FC was supposed to join the MLS in 2023, versus 2022, due to the pandemic. That plan hit yet another snag after Ron Burkle, lead investor, pulled out.

SACRAMENTO, Calif — It’s been a busy couple of weeks for Todd Dunivant since Sacramento’s Major League Soccer (MLS) expansion franchise lost its lead investor. 

The announcement left the city, staff, and league scrambling to find stable footing for what was expected to be the 30th MLS franchise. 

Dunivant remains confident Sacramento will find an answer that makes the city’s MLS dream a reality after lead investor Ron Burkle pulled out of the project. The question for Sacramento is how long MLS will wait given the interest the league has received from other cities vying for a team.

Republic FC was supposed to join the MLS in 2023, as opposed to 2022, because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a press release issued in summer 2020. This delayed inclusion also led to a delay in the construction of the new soccer stadium in Sacramento’s Railyards.

However, Sacramento's expansion team and a new arena were at the heart of a plan to double the size of downtown by finally developing the long-dormant Railyards. But that plan was put at risk, as Sacramento’s MLS team expansion efforts hit a snag.  

"I’m not sure the railyards is going to activate without a major investment like Major League Soccer," explained Barry Broome, CEO, and President of the Greater Sacramento Economic Council in a conversation with ABC10. 

If Sacramento does not end up with an MLS team, Broome predicted development at the Railyards — which is expected to include retail space, a hotel, a courthouse and create thousands of jobs — would halt.

"I think MLS activates the Railyards, the waterfront, activates the downtown," Broome explained. "Other things are coming to our community that we need to be prepared for. There’s going to be a two or three-year structural deficit by the state of California, that’s layoffs, less income in the downtown, so we’ve got two or three years of managing a structural deficit from the state government."

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