Sacramento awarded MLS expansion team

Charlotte, North Carolina will be home to a Major League Soccer franchise, commissioner Don Garber announced (AFP Photo/JEWEL SAMAD) (AFP)

San Francisco (AFP) - Major League Soccer on Monday confirmed Sacramento will be home to the league's latest expansion team, with the franchise due to kick off in 2022.

The long-expected move was confirmed at a news conference in the California state capital attended by MLS commissioner Don Garber and California Governor Gavin Newsom.

The new team will assume the banner of Sacramento's Republic FC team, which has played in the lower tier United Soccer League since 2014.

Sacramento Republic FC will be the fourth MLS team to be based in California, joining San Jose Earthquakes, Los Angeles Galaxy and Los Angeles FC.

Monday's announcement marks the end of a five-year battle between Sacramento officials and investors to secure an MLS expansion team.

A series of false dawns saw Sacramento kept waiting while other cities such as Atlanta, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Nashville, Miami, Minneapolis/St. Paul and St. Louis were handed franchises.

However the Sacramento bid was given fresh momentum earlier this when billionaire Ron Burkle, co-owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team, joined the investment group along with Hollywood movie producer Matt Alvarez.

The ownership group has said it will begin immediate construction on a $250 million, 20,000-seater stadium near Sacramento's downtown.

Twenty-four teams are playing in MLS this season, including first-year club FC Cincinnati.

David Beckham's Inter Miami squad and a new team in Nashville, Tennessee, are set to debut in 2020 with a club in Austin, Texas, scheduled to open in 2021. St.Louis will join the league in 2022.

MLS kicked off in 1996 with 10 US teams and now features three Canadian sides as well as clubs in most major US markets.