sac socUpdated at 12:43 p.m.

For decades, Sacramento has had one major league sports team. But that changed on Monday, when Major League Soccer welcomed the Republic FC as its newest expansion franchise.

“In a few short years, your club has captured the hearts and minds of soccer fans in this city and throughout the region, and the entire sport has taken notice,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. “There is no doubt that this is a soccer city.”

The announcement was finally revealed during a morning press conference with city officials and the team’s owners, billionaire investor Ron Burkle, and also Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The Republic FC’s MLS bid has been a long and bumpy road, which Mayor Darrell Steinberg and the team’s owners mentioned in their remarks following the announcement.

“Today is not the day we’ve all been waiting for,” Republic co-owner Matt Alvarez. “Today is the day we’ve all been fighting for. It is a day we knew would come because this is the ‘indomitable city.’ Everything we’ve achieved has been earned.”

Fans crowd and cheer inside the Bank in downtown Sacramento as the Sacramento Republic FC is announced as the 29th Major League Soccer team.Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Steinberg marked the soccer news as a “tipping point” for Sacramento

“Today’s victory is sweeter because it was anything but easy,” Steinberg said. “Let me proclaim the following: The ‘wouldn’t it be great if’ era in Sacramento is over. … We are a major league city in every way.”

The team has planned a block party on Capitol Mall at 4 p.m to celebrate the news.

Fan celebrations kicked off early this past weekend, as the faithful gathered to watch its team take on its competition from Salt Lake City at the downtown cantina and restaurant Chando’s.

Matthew Waldron of Fair Oaks relished the moment.

“It’s been complete excitement,” he said of the announcement. “I’ve been following soccer my whole life, lived in Sacramento my whole life, it’s a really great accomplishment for the city to be able to get the MLS team.”

Tracy Dubay of Folsom says she’s endured the ups and downs, but was excited for Monday’s big news.

“We are overjoyed,” she said. “It took longer than we had hoped, but we are ecstatic that it’s finally coming, it’s finally happening.”

It’s been a long road for the Republic, which has aspired to join the top North American pro-soccer league since news of the franchise broke in 2012.

The Republic won the United Soccer League championship in its first season in 2014, but its immediate success on the field did not translate to an MLS invitation.

Sacramento was passed over by the league in 2017and2018, in favor of expansion teams in Nashville and Cincinnati.

But in January, billionaire Ron Burkle, who also owns the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team, came on board as lead investor. And in April, City Council approved the new downtown stadium plan.

Also that month, MLS announced it would add two more expansion franchises, bringing the number of teams to 30, and it tapped St. Louis and finally Sacramento as likely additions.

Last week, after a summer of negotiations, reports emerged that Sacramento had finally sealed the deal.

The Republic is positioned to make its MLS debut in 2022 and plans to host matches at a soon-to-be-under-construction, $252 million stadium in the city’s downtown railyards.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the Republic FC's current affiliation. The USL is a professional league.

(Photo: Fans and media gather for the MLS franchise announcement - Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio)

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