Does MLS-USL Agreement Spell Doom For Elk Grove Pro Soccer Dreams?

January 24, 2014 | As part of his plan to transform Elk Grove from a bedroom community to a major tourist destination, Mayor Gary Davis...

January 24, 2014 |

As part of his plan to transform Elk Grove from a bedroom community to a major tourist destination, Mayor Gary Davis has been instrumental in pushing the city to develop everything from a tourism website to the coming installation of visitor wayfinding signs throughout the city.

The centerpiece of that plan is Davis' dream of attracting a Major League Soccer (MLS) team to the city. Those intentions made a big splash over a year ago when Davis announced that he and Council Member Jim Cooper had met with MLS Commissioner Don Garber at the league's finals in Southern California.
Elk Grove Vice Mayor Jim Cooper and City Manager Laura Gill visited the Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas on a fact finding mission.

Even though the city has retained Democratic political heavyweight and former California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and his Northern California Soccer, LLC team to help land an MLS franchise, purchase property and erect a built-to-suit stadium, the project has seemingly been snake bitten from the start.

On the same day Davis announced his and Cooper's meeting with Garber, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson stole the spotlight by announcing Sacramento city would be home to a United Soccer League (USL) club. Although the USL is one rung lower than the MLS on the pro soccer food chain - think of it as the Rivercats Triple A to the Oakland A's Major League Baseball status - it can be a precursor to a possible expansion into Sacramento, but not necessarily Elk Grove.

In a press release issued last month, the MLS noted "A recent report detailed plans by the Sacramento club's president, Warren Smith, to land an MLS franchise in 2016, saying the club has already kicked off a campaign to convince the league that Sacramento is a first-rate market for top-level professional soccer."

The latest development came just yesterday when the MLS and USL announced an affiliation between the Sacramento Republic and the MLS's Portland Timbers and San Jose Earthquakes. The affiliation appears to be a type of farm league system whereby Sacramento will feed the two teams with players.

Sports fans of a certain age can remember when the National Football League merged with the American Football League and the National Basketball Association swallowed  the American Basketball Association

Could the MLS and USL be working toward a farm-league-type arrangement or even a merger? If the latter happens, Sacramento's USL would be in like flint.

Since Nunez' appearance last spring before the Elk Grove City Council (see Fox40 News videos here) encouraging the city to pursue building a $100 million stadium in hopes of landing an MLS team, not much, at least publicly, has happened. Furthermore, in a recent conference Garber did not include Sacramento, much less Elk Grove, as possible expansion cities and noted "the downtown formula has been working for us and it’s hard to imagine that we would go into a market where we don’t have that scenario."

Davis and Elk Grove Economic Development Director Randy Starbuck were contacted yesterday inviting comment on the city's efforts in light of the recent Sacramento pro soccer developments but neither has replied.

So where does this leave Elk Grove?

Unless the city can pull a rabbit out of its hat, given the lack of public progress reports from team Nunez on their efforts, public statements from Garber regarding cities and downtown settings the MLS prefers and Sacramento's quickly progressing efforts, Elk Grove's MLS dreams might be just that - dreams.

Instead the city should refocus, or perhaps laser focus as the mayor is so fond of saying, and pursue development of competitive soccer fields for our youth leagues and as a venue to host tournaments. That alone may not make Elk Grove a tourist destination per se, but it could attract out of town soccer players and their families giving the city a nice shot in the arm from additional sales taxes, not to mention providing a valuable amenity for our city's youth.  

On the positive side, if nothing happens with the Mayor's vision, taxpayers will not be on the hook for a $100 million stadium, or worse, another half-built eye sore.

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Anonymous said...

I was wondering what ever happened to the multi-field soccer/softball venue for our local citizens to utilize? This idea seemed to drop off the charts. Being a soccer mom of four kids, we are consistently driving to Fairfield, Redding, Manteca and Elverta to play weekend tournaments. Take it from me, there is money to be made in kid's soccer tournament. It seems a win-win situation. If a partnership could be forged with the school district, our high schools could use the fields after school and tournaments on weekends. Let's lazer focus on our own kids and create a place where sports and physical fitness combine with entertainment and more than likely, a profit for the city. Win-win.

Coffee Bean said...

Meanwhile, the front page of yesterday's Sac Bee Region section headline reads, "VSP to add 200 Folsom jobs, new facility expands lens grinding".

With all of the recession impacts becoming more clearer, I think it's high time for us citizens to weigh in on our "laser focused" ideas of where the city should be headed, since we are paying the bills.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe many ever thought that MLS Soccer idea would ever happen...just the Mayors "Pie in the Sky" idea and drinkin' that Nunez punch.

Anonymous said...

This city is like watch a comedy show.

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