Major League Soccer on Monday made official its long-awaited move to award a franchise to Sacramento.
Sacramento Republic FC will move to the top tier in 2022, making it the 29th team in a league that has exploded in size over the past decade.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) October 21, 2019
The franchise will play in a newly built, $300 million stadium in California's capital city, with Pittsburgh Penguins owner Ron Burkle as its lead investor. Sacramento currently plays in the second-tier USL Championship, where it won the title in its inaugural 2014 season.
The club quickly established a devoted fanbase and has long been considered likely to move up to MLS.
“Major League Soccer continues to grow throughout North America and we are so proud to welcome Sacramento as our newest team,” Commissioner Don Garber said in a release. “For many years, soccer fans in Sacramento have passionately supported Republic FC and shown that the club deserves to be competing at the highest level. Thanks to the determined efforts and commitment of new owners Ron Burkle and Matt Alvarez along with the leadership of Mayor Darren Steinberg, Sacramento will join MLS with a world-class soccer stadium that will transform the sport in California’s capital.”
The city currently has only one major league franchise, the NBA's Kings.
— Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) October 21, 2019
Sacramento will have a natural rival in the nearby San Jose Earthquakes and brings some geographic balance to MLS's latest expansion wave. Only one of the last five new franchises awarded has been west of the Mississippi River: Austin FC, which will begin play in 2021.
FC Cincinnati became the latest franchise to debut in 2019, and the other newcomers gearing up are Nashville SC (2020), Inter Miami CF (2020) and St. Louis (2022).
MLS announced earlier this year it plans to get to 30 franchises, so only one remains to be awarded. Recent speculation has centered on Charlotte, as new Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper has made pursuing an MLS team a priority since taking over in May 2018.