MLS

Reports: Sacramento set to announce MLS expansion team early next week

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USATSI

Reports: Sacramento set to announce MLS expansion team early next week

Major League Soccer's 29th team reportedly will be in Sacramento. 

MLS will announce Monday that it is awarding its next expansion team to Sacramento in a downtown press conference, The Sacramento Bee reported Tuesday citing "sources with direct knowledge of the deal." KCRA-TV and KOVR-TV later confirmed The Bee's reporting.

The Bee reported the club will play as Sacramento Republic FC, and KOVR-TV reported that they officially will join the league in 2022. Republic FC, which has played in the second tier of American soccer in the United Soccer League, tweeted a pair of statements Tuesday and said the team will share "more information in the days ahead."

The Sacramento City Council unanimously approved a non-binding term sheet in April that calls for Republic FC to build a $252 million stadium on undeveloped land in the downtown railyards and for the city to provide a $33 million incentive package. The package included $2.4 million in tax rebates and waived building permit fees, as well as $27 million from a future increased property tax to reimburse Republic FC for building infrastructure near the stadium.

Sacramento mayor Darrell Steinberg, according to The Bee, will propose the City Council modify the agreement to make the $27 million a loan to be paid back with interest by the Sacramento investor group, which is now led by Pittsburgh Penguins co-owner Ron Burkle after he agreed to acquire a controlling interest in Republic FC in January. 

The MLS board of governors voted unanimously in April to expand the league from 27 to 30 teams, inviting investor groups in St. Louis and Sacramento to submit bids. MLS awarded St. Louis its 28th franchise in August, and The Bee reported Sacramento's investor group has been in negotiations with MLS since late April. 

Sacramento will join three other teams -- and potential rivals -- in California: the San Jose Earthquakes, LA Galaxy and top-of-the-table LAFC. Republic FC would become the fifth team ever to play in the state, as C.D. Guadalajara-associated Chivas USA folded in 2014. 

Watch Chris Wondolowski go wild in stands after Earthquakes score goal

Watch Chris Wondolowski go wild in stands after Earthquakes score goal

Chris Wondolowski couldn't suit up in one of the Earthquakes' biggest matches of the season, but he still could celebrate in the stands. 

Wondolowski sat out Wednesday's 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Union at Avaya Stadium after picking up a red card in last week's defeat to Atlanta United. The Quakes star promised Tuesday on Twitter to sit with the San Jose Ultras supporters group during the match, and more than made good on that promise when the Quakes took a 1-0 lead in Wednesday's first half. 

MLS' all-time goal-scoring leader fit right in, ripping off his shirt after Jackson Yueill gave San Jose the lead in the 35th minute.

The Earthquakes entered Wednesday in possession of the seventh and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, but the fourth consecutive loss dropped them to eighth, one point behind FC Dallas and the Portland Timbers, with two games to play. 

Getting back to the playoffs and setting an MLS record would make Wondolowski's 15th season in the league plenty memorable. But Wednesday's epic celebration is the stuff of legend. 

Alejandro Bedoya, Major League Soccer stand tall against gun violence

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USATSI

Alejandro Bedoya, Major League Soccer stand tall against gun violence

The days of “shut and dribble” are gone, kicked into the national trash bin, where it joins such passe phrases as “stick to sports,” “stay in your lane,” and “who asked you?”

Thank you, Alejandro Bedoya.

And thank you, Major League Soccer.

As refreshing as it was to see Bedoya, a Philadelphia Union midfielder, react to scoring a goal by sprinting to the corner of a soccer pitch on Sunday and grab a hot microphone to plead for a humane response to the latest mass shootings in the United States, what happened on Monday was more significant.

While folks waited to see how MLS would react to Bedoya for making what always has been described as a “political statement” -- fine, suspension, or both -- the powers that be did no such thing.

Rather than issue discipline, they instead announced Bedoya, had been voted MLS Player of the Week.

Though there was, officially, no direct link between the award and the in-game plea uttered to a national audience through a TV mic -- “Congress, do something now. End gun violence! Let’s go!” -- that members of such an institution did not wring their hands or seek to repress Bedoya is an admission of recognition long overdue.

That sports and society are not mutually exclusive. Not that they ever were.

Like millions across the country, Bedoya, who was born in New Jersey but grew up in Florida, was sickened by the events hours earlier in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. An angry young man in El Paso killed 20 people (two more died Monday, raising the total to 22). Another angry young man killed nine in Dayton. There were calls to action from coast-to-coast, from politicians, entertainers, sports figures and beyond.

Even country music stars, usually careful to avoid tweaking their generally conservative fan bases, were on message with Bedoya. “True leaders don’t stand back and watch the world burn,” tweeted Kacey Musgraves. From Billy Ray Cyrus: “Be the change you wanna see.”

Warriors coach Steve Kerr, speaking in Las Vegas, where he is an assistant coach for Team USA as it prepares for the FIBA World Cup, said in part, “It's up to us as Americans to demand change from the gutless leadership that continues to allow this to happen and continues to somehow claim the second amendment is doing its job.”

What’s rare, however, for an American sports league to offer much more than sympathies. MLS not only not only gave its weekly honor to someone blazing through the news cycle for reasons beyond soccer, it also offered a few words that imply at least a measure of support for Bedoya and his spontaneous public-service announcement:

“The Major League Soccer family joins everyone in grieving for the loss of lives in Texas and Ohio, and we understand that our players and staff have strong and passionate views on this issue.”

MLS didn’t go far enough, but it also did not run from the issue. And by citing Bedoya as an example, it inches forward the conversation in ways other sports leagues wouldn’t dare. Perhaps it understands that silence, now, with mass homicidal madness on graphic display almost daily, is to be complicit in America’s unwillingness to confront the worst of itself.

Not only was MLS on message with Bedoya, but so was his team, which also issued a statement: “The Philadelphia Union support Alejandro Bedoya. He is taking a stand. The events that transpired this weekend across the country are deplorable. Our hearts go out to everyone affected.”

Union coach Jim Curtin took it a step further.

“I’m on his side. It’s outrageous. Things need to change in this country for sure,” Curtin told reporters in Washington. “And I’ll support anyone who speaks their mind and is intelligent and informed on it every time. That’s what Alejandro is. He’s passionate. He cares.

“And again, it’s a real issue in our country now that needs to change. A lot of people will tell me now and Ale to shut up, to stick to sports and all these stupid lines that come up. But it’s crazy. It’s crazy in our country right now and I think it needs to change as well.”

Bedoya, 32, is a former member of the U.S. Men’s National Team and among the most respected players in MLS. He was prepared for any heat that came his way from the Union, and from MLS.

He instead was given an award by one and a pat on the back by the other in what we can only hope this is a turn toward systematic enlightenment.