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Future Of Major League Soccer In Sacramento Could Be Decided In First Half Of 2015

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — The decision on where to award a new Major League Soccer franchise could come within six months, the commissioner said during an address on Tuesday.

Don Garber revealed that deciding whether to expand to Sacramento, Minneapolis, or Las Vegas will need extra time, though it will be discussed at Saturday's Board of Governors meeting.

Sacramento is one of four potential groups vying to be the 24th team in MLS. There are two rival bids from Minneapolis and one from Las Vegas as the league looks to expand by 2020.

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"The state of major league soccer is better today than it was 20 years ago or 10 years ago," Garber said.

Sacramento Republic founder Warren Smith is working to make his minor-league team the MLS top choice.

"They've got cities competing, and frankly they'll probably get a better deal because of it," he said.

The commissioner also named the owners on the expansion committee—Sporting Kansas City's Cliff Illig, Toronto FC's Larry Tanenbaum, and Seattle Sounders' Joe Roth.

Smith and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson presented Sacramento's case to the expansion committee in New York last month.

While it waits on the MLS decision, the USL Pro champion Sacramento Republic revealed a picture showing an expansion to Bonney Field at Cal Expo.


Smith says the team's success means the one-year-old stadium will stand for a long time.

"As you can see that venues turned out quite nicely, and there's going to be a lot of great events in that facility," he said.

In addition to Republic home games, Bonney Field has everything from local high-school soccer to international rugby teams.

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A key cornerstone to the plan to bring an MLS team to Sacramento may already be under construction in downtown Sacramento. After years of uncertainty whether the Kings would stay in town, the city put together a plan to keep the team in Sacramento.

Sacramento State economics professor and Wells Fargo wealth adviser Sanjay Varshney says if that arena wasn't under construction, there's no way anyone would be talking about the possibility of an MLS stadium coming to the rail yards.

"The fact that Sacramento succeeded in keeping the Kings here and are putting in a new arena will be a factor in whether or not we actually get soccer now," he said.

RELATED: Sacramento Soccer Fans Excited For Chance At MLS Team

Two groups from Minnesota are also vying for a team, including one with the backing of the NFL's Minnesota Vikings ownership. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports one plan would have the Vikings' new $1 billion stadium converted from a 65,400-seat football stadium to a 20,000-seat soccer stadium with large panels and advertising boards covering the other 40,000-plus seats.

The Las Vegas bid was dealt another blow on Monday as the City Council voted to delay a vote on possible stadium funding until its Dec. 17 meeting. Without public financing on the $200 million stadium, the deal is likely to fall through and deal a serious blow to the city's hopes.

The league hopes to expand to 24 teams by 2020. Chivas USA in Southern California recently was shut down by the league, with new ownership taking over and a new Los Angeles team to start playing in 2017. Teams in Orlando and New York City will join next year, bringing the total to 20.

By the time Chivas rejoins the league in 2017, teams in Atlanta and Miami are expected to leave only one open space for a team, pending a finalized stadium plan for the latter.

The Miami ownership group hasn't been able to lock down financing from the city for a new stadium. MLS Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott warned on Tuesday that without a stadium deal, the Miami bid could be in trouble, opening the door for another team to take its place.

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