The Sacramento MLS team loses billionaire Ron Burkle

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A year and a half after the announcement, an MLS expansion team was on their way to Sacramento. One of the team’s main investors is the jump ship.

Billionaire Ron Burkle has withdrawn from the Sacramento Republic FC project amid concerns over COVID-19, MLS said in a statement on Friday. The league said it still believes Sacramento could become an MLS market and will consider next steps for the city in the coming days:

“I want to thank the mayor [Darrell] Steinberg for his continued efforts to bring MLS to Sacramento, “MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in the statement.” His dedication to the city and his contributions to its passionate soccer fans should make all Sacramento citizens proud.

“The interest in a club in Major League Soccer has never been so great. And I remain incredibly optimistic about completing the expansion plans for our 30th team.”

Sacramento’s search for the MLS team continues

The move is a wild U-turn for a bid that was previously believed to have already crossed the finish line. MLS announced that it had awarded Sacramento its 29th team back in October 2019. This was the culmination of years of pursuit of a place in the fast-growing league.

Burkle, along with Hollywood producer Matt Alvarez and Sacramento businessman Kevin Nagle, finally gave Sacramento the financial backing it needed to land a team. Burkle is also a co-owner of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins. In addition to the $ 200 million entry price for the league, the group announced plans for a 20,000-seat stadium in downtown Sacramento valued at $ 250 million.

However, according to Sacramento Bee, Burkle only signed a tentative agreement with MLS and never officially signed a formal long-term agreement. After the team was announced, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is believed to have caused construction costs for the new stadium to rise due to a year-long construction delay. Along with the expansion teams in Charlotte and St. Louis, the club’s debut was delayed for a year until 2023 due to the virus.

Obviously, replacing a billionaire’s financial backing isn’t easy, and that’s exactly what Sacramento has to do if it is to hold onto its MLS team. The city’s mayor released a statement Friday night saying he had no plans to retire:

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