SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — The Sacramento Republic soccer team faced a great opportunity both on and off the pitch Wednesday night.
The Republic, out of the lower division United Soccer League, took down Major League Soccer's Real Salt Lake 4-1 to advance in the Lamar Hunt Open Cup.
The Republic will learn of its next opponent in the Round of 16 on Thursday. Organization leaders were looking to impress Major League Soccer during a historic event. The team and city played host to a Major League Soccer team in a meaningful match for the first time in history -- all while Major League Soccer is working through 12 applications from cities, including Sacramento, looking to become the next MLS expansion franchise.
"That's the magic of the cup, everybody gets a shot," said Graham Smith, the director of football for Republic FC.
"They can go out and prove that they should be playing at that level."
"It is a tremendous opportunity," said Smith. "This is a stage for players to show the football fraternity at a higher level what they're capable of."
"Sacramento will be very hungry. This is a big game for them," said Mike Petke, the head coach for Real Salt Lake.
Petke went on to say Sacramento is very much an MLS atmosphere.
"In the end, I believe that Sacramento is MLS-ready," said Kevin Nagle, owner of Republic FC.
It's a vision Nagle is confident in.
"We can only worry about ourselves," said Nagle about the preparations for MLS expansion.
Nagle recently solidified his ownership of the organization. Plans for a new stadium are ready to go if MLS is granted.
While there is momentum in the Indomitable City, others with an MLS dream are having their share of struggles.
"They want to go ahead with it, then they can fund it as far as I'm concerned," said a Charlotte city councilwoman several months ago.
Charlotte is having difficulties securing support and funding for a stadium. Meanwhile, San Diego city leadership is at odds over allowing the people to decide on stadium plans.
"I watch them and I see what's going on," said Nagle, reiterating that his main focus is on Sacramento and Republic.
Sacramento's bid for MLS is buttoned up. Now, it's all about putting on the best performance possible.
Major League Soccer will announce their expansion franchises by the end of 2017. Teams would begin MLS play in 2020.
for more features.