Sacramento Republic FC and Final Thoughts on Expansion

Maybe I am just distracting myself from the fact that two trophies will be decided in the next three weeks, but I can’t stop thinking of expansion.

That passion for professional soccer clearly exists in the West: Sacramento, Boise, Las Vegas. However, each of these cities has a potential problem. Boise, though able to mobilize many to sway an online vote, is a very small market. Las Vegas is a big enough city, but has complications both temperature-wise and Puritanical-anti-gambling-wise that will always hinder it. Sacramento may be the Goldilocks of the bunch. It has supported an NBA team for decades and may be just right.

Sacramento has a successful and vibrant lower-division team, and has pulled together investors hoping to make an MLS bid. Dale Kasler, in a recent article in the Sacramento Bee, discuss the city’s MLS ambitions:

It was largely out-of-town money, from Silicon Valley and beyond, that bought the Sacramento Kings last year and kept them from leaving town.

The quest for Major League Soccer, by comparison, is almost strictly a local affair.

Having an array of wealthy Sacramento investors also helps bolster the argument to MLS that the market is worthy of big-time professional soccer. “It’s important to have local ownership involved,” said Lisa Parker, head of an aircraft-parts manufacturer and a new minority investor in Republic FC. “There’s no question we have a strong enough group to be awarded the (MLS) franchise.”

The strength of the ownership group assembled by Nagle could be a tribute, in part, to the recovering economy. “Once you get a city on its feet … these are the natural things that happen,” said new Republic FC investor Scott Powell, president of Sacramento Jet Center, an aviation-operations company. “You naturally get things like the MLS.”

MLS and its footprint will evolve over over the next decade or so. There will be unbalanced growth and teams swapping back and forth between conferences. Towards that end, I propose a solution. I know it’s crazy, but I envision MLS splitting from two conferences to four divisions, each geographically dividing the nation (almost like the power conferences in college football). MLS could have the Pacific, Atlantic, South and Central divisions.

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I realize this is completely harebrained. This model kills traditional rivalries: DCU vs. NYRB, RSL vs. the other western powers. I was just spitballing a pure geographic realignment. This would limit travel and ensure a better playoff. The playoff proposed in this system would see each division sending its top two teams. The A teams would be seeded according to points, followed by the B teams. A1 plays B4, A4 plays B1, etc. Each season would end with a little knockout round-esque bracket. What do you think?

  • Friar Tuck

    This is a spicy idea, and just for grins I’m gonna follow the rabbit hole down;
    The four conferences definitely make sense from a geographic and travel aspect, and you can essentially keep the same scheduling system they have currently (each team plays it’s conference 3 times, everyone else once, for 33 league games each)
    The top two teams from each conference making playoffs is good, but I’d like to throw in two more wild cards to keep it a ten team playoff. Ten teams out of twenty four seems reasonable, plus the wild cards allow you to either have a wildcard play in, or a first round bye for the #1 seed. The problem with the wild cards is you would probably have to have the four conferences in 2 division sets; I’m thinking Pacific and Central, and Atlantic and Southern.
    Then the real kicker, is what this does to the supporters shield. The SS is already widely maligned because the uneven scheduling robs the SS of relevance, and this would certainly add fuel to that fire. But really, the people that will bother the most are the European soccer purists who shun a playoff system entirely when selecting their league champion, and so I suppose you could make the argument that this change would make the league more “American”. Plus this begs the question about what to do with the MLS CCL spots. Currently they go to the SS winner, the high record from the other conference, USOC winner, and the MLS Cup winner. Obviously the MLS Cup winner still would get one, and I think most people would say the USOC needs its CCL spot to help the tourny maintain relevance, so who gets the next two spots? The two best records league wide?

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