Sacramento Republic F.C. shield.
SACRAMENTO - Sacramento Republic F.C. have yet to unveil their uniforms, have no permanent home and have just signed their first two players. So why would anyone be surprised that MLS chief Don Garber didn't mention Sacramento as a possible destination for an expansion team?
At Tuesday's State of the League address in New York, Garber mentioned Minneapolis, San Antonio, Austin and St. Louis after speaking on Atlanta and Miami as front runners for the next two slots, but insisted the league hasn't "begun to look deeply" into the first four cities.
Garber highlighted a regional absence of an MLS franchise and proven success at either the minor league level or in promoting exhibition matches as selling points for those cities.
While Sacramento sold out Raley Field for its lone international exhibition game this summer, the city hasn't even had a chance to prove itself as a consistently viable soccer town.
So, Tuesday's absence of Sacramento from the current MLS landscape will be looked at by rational eyes as expected rather than surprising.
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Republic F.C. CEO Warren Smith admitted as much at the team's one-year anniversary celebration and signing event at midtown's Hot Italian restaurant Tuesday, "If I were them I wouldn't mention us, either," Smith told the Sacramento Bee. "We haven't played a game. Talk is cheap."
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Talk is indeed cheap, and a league (and sport) battling daily to find a foothold and scale the American sports marketplace cannot afford to gamble on talk, hopes and expectations. It needs a sure thing.
Presently, the only sure thing about Sacramento as a soccer town is that it's far from a sure thing. The early signs are there to suggest California's capital could be a strong soccer city. More than 2,500 season tickets have already been sold with only two players on the roster, and Smith has assembled a strong front office and coaching staff. These are good blocks upon which to build but they are merely the ground layer of a massive structure that must be raised considerably to seriously grab the attention of Garber or anyone else at MLS headquarters.
Time will tell if Sacramento emerges as an attractive landing spot for Major League Soccer. At present, it's far too early to think the city deserves a team, or to become despondent if it fails to be mentioned on the list of candidates.
For now, local soccer fans should continue to support the team with the same fervency, don their Sacramento Republic scarves and jerseys, chant "Glory Glory Sacramento" and simply enjoy the fact that professional soccer will be played in the region again, regardless of the fact the league's acronym reads USL and not MLS.
By Paul Janes