Does Sacramento Shakeup Have MLS Looking at Phoenix Rising FC

Do the road graders need to start working around the clock on clearing land for Phoenix Rising FC’s new stadium at the I-10-202 exchange on the Gila River Reservation? I would think so after the news on Friday night that the lead investor in the Sacramento MLS franchise has suddenly pulled out. Here’s the statement from Major League Soccer.

Earlier today, Ron Burkle informed the League that based on issues with the project related to COVID-19, he has decided not to move forward with the acquisition of an MLS expansion team in Sacramento.

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.

“I want to thank Mayor Steinberg for his continued efforts to bring MLS to Sacramento,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “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.”

I spoke with Phoenix Rising FC Executive Board Member Tim Riester via text on Friday night about the unexpected development. 
           “Our hearts go out to the Sacramento Republic fans who have been so dedicated to lifting their team into MLS. The                           pandemic has been tremendously challenging for professional sports teams and leagues across the globe. Phoenix Rising
             FC  is incredibly fortunate to have the dedicated sponsor and fan support, comprehensive partnership with the Gila River 
             Indian Community and depth of ownership financial backing to thrive and grow despite this difficult time.”

I would imagine that Las Vegas would be moving at light speed tonight too. The Vegas market has seen incredible growth in professional sports in recent years with the NFL Raiders and NHL Golden Knights coming into play. They have been in pursuit of any and all professional leagues to come on board. From my view, the Rising FC ownership can only do so much.

They need political help that is out front, vocal, and serious about bringing the fifth major sports league to the Valley. I’ve seen this story drag on for far too many years. The current ownership group hasn’t become fatigued publicly with the pursuit as so many have before them. Privately, perhaps tonight’s news puts new wind in their sails.

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