Sacramento Republic FC may have to wait until the next wave of Major League Soccer expansion to join the league, but no timetable has yet been set, MLS commissioner Don Garber said on Thursday.
"Sacramento will be very high on our list of next clubs to come into the league," Garber said on a conference call and reported in the Sacramento Bee. "This might be painful in the short term, but long term I believe Republic will be in this league ... and everybody will forget the drama and uncertainty of where we are today."
Garber's first expansion plan includes 24 teams by 2020. As part of that program, New York City FC and Orlando City began this year; Atlanta and Los Angeles FC are slated to start in 2017; and, in late March, Minnesota United was given an expansion team to join in 2018.
David Beckham and his group, Miami Beckham United, were granted an option to buy an expansion team as part of Beckham's agreement to play in MLS years ago, so he has the 24th spot, although the search for a suitable stadium site continues.
San Antonio, Sacramento, Austin, St. Louis and Indianapolis are all candidates for what is being called the second wave of expansion beyond 2020.
Garber said that while he is frustrated by the challenges Beckham's ownership group is facing over the stadium venue, he was coy as to whether Sacramento would supplant Miami should the South Florida stadium project not come to fruition. League owners are due to hear a report from Beckham's ownership group when they meet in Columbus, Ohio, this weekend ahead of Sunday's MLS Cup final.
"We have a true belief in that city as representing an important strategic market for us," he said. "We believe in the [Miami] market. If we can't get it right, we move on. It's conceivable Sacramento could be higher on our expansion priority list. We will make the decision on Miami in due time."
Kevin Nagle, managing partner of Republic FC, told the newspaper he appreciates Garber's comments about the strength of Sacramento's bid for MLS.
"We fully respect the MLS expansion process and look forward to continuing to do everything we can to be ready for MLS in any scenario and any timetable," Nagle said.
Earlier this week, the Sacramento City Council approved a term sheet for a proposed $226 million MLS stadium at the city's downtown railyard.
"We are very impressed with what the Republic has put together," Garber said. "We really are impressed with what the city has done to get behind their stadium project."