For years, Sacramento Republic FC fans wondered when it would finally be their turn to support an MLS side, especially after league commissioner Don Garber, in 2015, told The Sacramento Bee, “It’s less about if, and more about when, the Republic joins MLS.”
That “when” was finally announced as 2022 this past fall when Garber & Co. confirmed that Sacramento would join the league after years of checking every box of expansion criteria.
On Friday, though, MLS made another announcement: the Republic, along with teams from Charlotte and St. Louis, would have to wait another year to enter the league.
So soccer fans in California’s capital, who once expected MLS years ago, will be disappointed by yet another delay.
But it is the right move.
As the old adage goes, anything worth having is worth waiting for, and this wait could do the Republic a lot of good.
Let’s start with the obvious, which has been plastered over every single news outlet and social-media platform for the past four months: We’re in the midst of a pandemic and our country is failing at containing it for a variety of reasons.
We have no idea how long this will last and to speculate would be an exercise in futility.
When Sacramento Republic FC was announced as an MLS franchise, it had roughly 29 months from said announcement until its original start date.
In that time, it would have to complete a stadium project that hasn’t begun construction yet, hire a host of staff, make a decision on whether to retain current staff, expand its scouting department and sign new players.
With quarantine and travel restriction in place, this would be a much more difficult process — not to mention the ethical concerns regarding putting people to work on constructing a non-essential building in an unsafe time.
While it had much less time to undergo some of these same processes — about a year was allotted — FC Cincinnati failed mightily as an expansion team coming into the league last year.
Not only is the club on its fourth head coach in fewer than two seasons, but on its second front-office group as well.
The more time an expansion team has to prepare, the better. Just look at LAFC, which had a four-year lead-in and used that time to go from a complete joke on Twitter to a playoff team in its first season.
From the get-go, L.A.’s second club built a unique game-day atmosphere right in the heart of Los Angeles with its own, brand-new stadium while contending for trophies.
For those of you who don’t watch soccer, please don’t discount how important it is to have a soccer-specific stadium when the Republic kicks off in MLS.
Papa Murphy’s Park is a fine venue … for a lower-division soccer team.
The sightlines are mostly great, but the location isn’t, and arrival at the pitch necessitates driving, rather than using public transportation. Also, it only sits just shy of 12,000 people — Sacramento expects crowds of 20,000-plus in MLS.
So if delays happen, which they almost always do for stadium construction, it would be a shame for the Republic to begin play in either an expanded Papa Murphy’s or on a thin field with an artificial surface at Hughes Stadium.
There really isn’t another venue in the area that could make due.
Really, the only downside of waiting an extra year is … waiting an extra year.
In my time on this planet, I’ve learned that it’s better to get something right than to get it fast.
Cincinnati may have done it fast and enjoyed huge crowds in the process, but for how long? I hope it is able to retain the fan atmosphere, but how long will those diehards stick around if 6-22-6 seasons keep happening?
The Chicago Fire rushed to build a stadium well outside the city limits in 2006. The venue lasted 13 seasons before the club paid the city of Bridgeview, Ill., $65.5 million to move back to Chicago, where it rebranded and will play games at Soldier Field, 凯发体育官方sporthome of the NFL Bears.
Chivas USA was hastily launched in L.A. in 2005 and folded in 2014 after averaging 7,063 fans per game. I went to one of those games that year and there couldn’t have been more than 2,000 people there.
No. Waiting is the correct move. Sacramento only has one opportunity to make a good first impression for the city, the fans and the top soccer league in the country.
Why not have as much time as possible to get everything just right?
— Evan Ream’s column publishes on Sundays. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @EvanReam.ShareTweet