At a recent meeting with local business leaders, Warren Smith , Manager and President, Sacramento Republic Football Club explained some of the key things that Major League Soccer is looking for in a league expansion city and shared some interesting insights about how we are positioned and how we got to where we are.
The national pro soccer league leadership is primarily looking for 3 legs or pillars in a potential city: 1) Demographics; 18 to 34 year olds, 2) Restaurants and bars nearby, and 3) a Public Transportation system to the stadium; and in addition, of course, they’d want to see a strong fan base.
Do we fit the bill?
Our demographics are good in the 18 to 34 year old strata and growing. The envisioned stadium at the currently preferred site at the north east corner of the old rail yards will accommodate 20,000 fans and would be set up to be useful for other sports and venues. Development plans could well included restaurants. And, it’s long been an area with a transportation focus thanks to previous city leadership.
In terms of city size and makeup we’re most often compared to the MLS team cities of Portland (Timbers), Seattle (Sounders - an expansion team in 2007), Montreal (Impact), and Vancouver BC (Whitecaps since 1986).
And a soccer fan base? We've had no trouble filling the stands with rabid fans, breaking league attendance records, so no problem!
Just soccer? No, the forward thinking Sacramento FC leadership group is also looking at future opportunities to capitalize on the wealth of sports talent in our valley; looking toward an Academy for youngsters to learn the fundamentals and a Soccer Player Development League that will develop prospects for pro teams.
Why the sudden surge of interest? Not sudden at all really, it’s been building for 25 years or more. When I came to Sacramento in 1985 I was impressed by the youth soccer opportunities for our children. The Pocket area Greenhaven Soccer Club at that time was a mature organization providing soccer experiences to hundreds of elementary aged kids – I was told it was the 3rd largest soccer club in the US. Soccer then gradually expanded into high school and college sports programs.
With our long time local interest in “the world’s sport” it’s no surprise that Sacramento now is ready for more. Our local experience is why soccer has “suddenly” blossomed to excitement about a local pro soccer team that could be coming to a new stadium near you!