MLS and USL PRO Teams for Sacramento Area

How the Sacramento franchise shows the next level of USA soccer
by Luke James   |   Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Match of the Bay - column on San Jose Earthquakes & the San Francisco Bay Area soccer scene

During the MLS Cup halftime show on ESPN last weekend, MLS Commissioner Don Garber answered a Twitter question about when he thought a promotion and relegation system within MLS might happen. He said that until self-sustaining lower level leagues were established this wouldn’t be possible.

It could be that recent announcements from Northern California represent a significant step in just that direction.

You see, Elk Grove, Calif., went from boom city to bust city in just seven years. It was the oft-repeated sad tale of failed businesses, foreclosed homes and an abandoned, half-completed mall construction project.

So it must have come as a big surprise to some when Elk Grove major, Gary Davis, was invited by Garber to discuss the possibility of Elk Grove landing a MLS franchise. The meeting took place at this weekend’s MLS Cup game in LA.

Turns out there’s a potential ownership group headed up by former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez. Nunez is already involved in negotiations with the city of Elk Grove to develop a soccer specific stadium in the southeast section of the city. Mayor Davis has even gone so far as to suggest that the league’s entry fee of $40 million for an expansion team might be negotiable.

Elk Grove might not be Garber’s priority for an expansion team, as he’s believed to being very close to finalizing a second New York City franchise.

When I spoke with him at the San Jose Earthquakes stadium groundbreaking on Oct. 21, Garber was focused only on discussing the need for a second NY team. However, Garber has a reputation for being on the case 24/7 to push MLS expansion and there have been recent reports about a possible Florida expansion team. So, why not Elk Grove?

A team between San Jose and Seattle and Portland would make for a very strong West Coast presence in MLS.

Just one day after Davis’ announcement came the news that a USL PRO expansion franchise will join the league in nearby Sacramento, Calif., for the 2014 season.

USL PRO is generally considered the strongest and most experienced US men’s professional soccer league below MLS. The league will feature 13 teams in 2013 with more than half boasting 10 years or more of operational experience. Expansion teams in Phoenix, Ariz., and Tampa, Fla., will join the league in the 2013 season.

To those who say there isn’t room enough for all these teams in the US sports space, I’d say take a look at the tribal soccer factions of the tiny island that is the United Kingdom. About 7,000 clubs there are members of a league in the English football system.

English Premier League media revenues will rise from around $5.5 billion in 2010-13 to an estimated at $9.5 billion for 2013-16. The UK live TV rights alone for 2013-16 were sold in auction to Sky and British Telecom for $4.8 billion.

I doubt Garber or any of the officials of any of the other US leagues think that amounts to small change.

It's clear that if both MLS and USL PRO are searching for a team in Sacramento, then American soccer, in both minor and major leagues, is looking to expand outside of just New York. And that, simply, means that we're not done by a long shot.

Luke JAMES

Nationality:
England
College:
Bournville Arts Coll.
Club Domestic:
Manchester United
Club Foreign:
SJ Earthquakes
6'9" Englishman with great view of the game from anywhere in the stadium. Manchester United fan since 1967. San Francisco Bay Area resident and huge (sic) San Jose Earthquakes fan. Covers entire SF Bay area soccer scene for SN.
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