Report: MLS in talks with Kings owners
The owners of the NBA's Sacramento Kings are in talks to buy USL Pro club Sacramento Republic FC, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber has said he would like to expand the league to 24 teams by 2020, and the Kings would buy the Republic with an eye toward moving them to MLS, the newspaper reported.
Kings president Chris Granger will meet with MLS and Republic officials, along with Sacramento mayor and former Kings player Kevin Johnson, during the MLS All-Star festivities on Wednesday in Portland, Oregon.
In their first season in USL Pro, the Republic have been selling out games at their 8,000-seat venue and have already broken the third-division league's season attendance record.
"Clearly the support for the Republic has been noticed by all of us," Dan Courtemanche, executive vice president of communications for MLS, told the Bee. "It's been incredible what we've seen week in and week out."
Republic owner Warren Smith has been in communication with Kings minority owner Kevin Nagle, who told the Bee that acquiring the soccer club would be good business.
"It makes all the sense in the world to figure out how to align collectively -- soccer and basketball," Nagle said. "It would enable us to take advantage of all the synergies available in marketing and sponsorships ... To be a better enterprise to respond to the wants and needs of our fans."
The sale would be the latest indication of professional teams in other sports taking notice of the financial potential of MLS. Toronto FC is owned by the same group that owns the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs and NBA's Toronto Raptors. The Seattle Sounders are owned in part by Paul Allen, who also owns the NFL's Seattle Seahawks and NBA's Portland Trail Blazers.
New York City FC, which starts play next season, is jointly owned by Manchester City and the New York Yankees, while Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank bought the rights to an Atlanta franchise which will begin play in 2017.
If Sacramento is granted an MLS franchise, it would be the second team to join directly from the third-division USL Pro after Orlando City, which will join MLS in 2015. The Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps both moved up from the second division in 2011.
On the pitch, the Republic have tested themselves against some top teams this summer. They lost to their would-be local rivals San Jose Earthquakes in the U.S. Open Cup and also dropped friendlies last month to Scottish power Rangers and Premier League side West Bromwich Albion.
Should David Beckham's planned Miami franchise be approved, MLS would have only one spot remaining in Garber's 24-team plan. Minneapolis and Detroit have also expressed interest in a team.