The economic impact of the coronavirus has ripped apart plans that had once seemed a sure bet for the league
Sacramento FC’s lead investor Ron Burkle has pulled out of plans to acquire an MLS franchise due to the coronavirus pandemic, thrusting the league’s Northern California expansion agenda into doubt.
MLS said Friday night that it would continue to evaluate its options in the fertile market.
Sacramento had originally been slated to start play in 2022 after being awarded a place in the U.S. top-flight, but that date had been previously pushed back amid the Covid-19 crisis. The Sacramento Bee has reported that “although Burkle signed a preliminary agreement in 2019 with MLS, the two sides never came to a formal long-form agreement.”
What did MLS announce about Sacramento FC?
“Earlier today, Ron Burkle informed the league that based on issues with the project related to Covid-19, he has decided to not move forward with the acquisition of an MLS expansion team in Sacramento,” MLS wrote in a statement on its website.
“After working for many years to bring an MLS team to Sacramento, the league continues to believe it can be a great MLS market. In the coming days, the league will work with Mayor Darrell Steinberg to evaluate possible next steps for MLS in Sacramento.”
MLS commissioner Don Garber extended an additional note to the franchise.
“I want to thank [Sacramento mayor Darrell] Steinberg for his continued efforts to bring MLS to Sacramento,” Garber said. “His commitment to the city and delivering for its passionate soccer fans should make all citizens of Sacramento proud.
“Interest in owning a club in Major League Soccer has never been higher. And I remain incredibly optimistic about finalizing expansion plans for our 30th team.”
What comes next for the city?
The city of Sacramento needs new investment sources to salvage its hopes of hosting an MLS side, but the financial challenges of the pandemic might deter a cash influx.
Steinberg, the mayor of California’s capital, blasted Burkle in response to the news but maintained hope of a positive outcome.
This is a developing story that will be updated.