The news broke thanks to Marcos Breton of The Sacramento Bee on Wednesday night that Sacramento Republic had secured the financial backing of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. This investment not only shows that the City of Sacramento is a united front when it comes to its professional sports landscape, but that the Republic is one step closer to their oft-stated goal of becoming an MLS expansion team.
While this is a cause for celebration for Sac Republic’s supporters, it may be setting off alarms in the minds of other supporters around the league, especially after the departure of Orlando City as they begin their first season as an MLS club. Yes, this could be one of the final keys to the loss of the team that paced the league in attendance last season, but as discussed last week, the league has never been stronger.
No longer will the departure of a team threaten the stability of the league. Unlike the promotions of Seattle, Portland and Vancouver, USL Pro has finally established a stability that is unprecedented in its history thanks in no small part to the agreement with MLS in 2013.
While the imminent departure of Portland did not necessarily create the chaos that was the lower divisions of US soccer in 2010, it certainly did not help what occurred. A highly controversial sell by Nike to NuRock Soccer Holdings instead of the USL Team Owners Association, as well as the movement of Seattle and Portland to MLS, led some owners to voice their concerns about the leadership and state of the league.
As a result, several teams that had previously competed in the old USL-1, the Rochester Rhinos and FC Tampa Bay among them, had elected to move to the NASL but were found to be under contract to play in the USL First Division in 2010. This created an issue for the NASL as they didn’t have enough teams to compete and so the US Soccer Federation created the USSF Second Division to serve as a one year solution. Portland moved up a year later, the NASL was formed and USL Pro was formed with 12 teams, though FC New York dissolved at the end of the season.
The threat of dissolution of USL Pro was a real threat in 2010, barely five years ago, but that is no longer the case. Now the league even markets itself as a stepping stone to MLS, not only for individual players, but also for entire organizations. Teams can move up or down within the American soccer pyramid without it truly damaging the vitality of the league.
Will teams such as Dayton Dutch Lions and the Charlotte Eagles be missed as a result of moving down to the USL PDL? Absolutely. Charlotte in particular had been a long-standing member of the professional level of the USL. Do those teams have a long-term affect on the longevity of the league? Not as much as they would have had this been even three years ago before the start of MLS and USL’s joint venture to develop the pyramid.
In short, congratulations to Sacramento on securing yet another solid financial backer. Hopefully the MLS powers that be notice all the hard work you’ve done. You truly are built for MLS.
(image courtesy of Thomas Kallweit)