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Sacramento group bidding for MLS team acquires USL club Republic FC

Major League Soccer has come a long way from 10 teams that started in 1996 to the 22 that kicked off the 2017 season.

Sacramento's bid to add an MLS franchise took another step forward on Monday, with the announcement that Sac Soccer & Entertainment Holdings has completed its acquisition of USL side Sacramento Republic FC.

With the help of Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, the two sides had reached an agreement in principle back in February. The agreement was necessary to bring SS&EH, which contains the investor group trying to bring an MLS team to the city, and Republic FC together under the same umbrella.

There had been some butting of heads between SS&EH CEO Kevin Nagle and Republic president and co-founder Warren Smith, which threatened to undermine the bid. But those issues have been resolved and now have been put in writing.

With the acquisition now complete, Republic FC will be the official identity of Sacramento's prospective MLS team.

"Today we stand as one club and one community," Nagle said. "I thank the Mayor and Warren for helping formalize what all of us wanted from day one: for Republic FC to represent Sacramento at the MLS level."

Smith added: "It's a proud day for our Republic FC family, including the staff, fans and supporters that have been instrumental during this journey. I'm grateful to the Mayor, Kevin and our fans for their belief in the purpose, mission and values of what we created through Republic FC."

Sacramento Republic FC of the USL will officially be the identity of Sacramento's prospective MLS team.

Sacramento has long been considered an expansion favorite given an ownership group that contains San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York and HP Enterprise president and CEO Meg Whitman, not to mention that it has a shovel-ready stadium plan. Republic FC also had the second-highest attendance in the 29-team USL last season, averaging over 11,000 fans per game.

But Sacramento still faces stiff competition, and is currently one of 12 cities vying for four MLS expansion slots. MLS has indicated that it will announce at least two of the four expansion cities in 2017. The other two slots are expected to be allocated in 2018.

The acquisition of the USL club is the second by an MLS expansion group this month, after Nashville Soccer Holdings LLC took a majority interest in USL expansion side Nashville SC.

Nagle and Smith also announced a series of local initiatives -- called #BringItHome -- that include having fan representation on the club's board, allowing fans to submit design proposals for the new stadium, using local contractors to build the venue, and partnering with local food vendors to provide some of the stadium's concessions.

"As proud as I am of what we've accomplished, I know now is not the time to be complacent," said Nagle. "#BringItHome is about taking an already strong bid and making it even stronger by refocusing our efforts on what got us into the MLS conversation in the first place: the incredible people of Sacramento."

Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

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