Major League Soccer executives will be in Charlotte and Raleigh next week to review competing bids for new franchises and gauge community support for the sport.
MLS president and deputy commissioner Mark Abbott will visit Charlotte Tuesday, July 18, and Raleigh Wednesday, July 19. In both cities, he and other MLS officials will meet with local government and business leaders and tour stadium sites and other soccer facilities. Both visits will wrap up with rallies that are supposed to show community support for professional soccer.
Charlotte and Raleigh are among a dozen cities vying for four MLS expansion slots to be awarded over the next few years.
CHARLOTTE VISIT TUESDAY
Abbott is scheduled to meet with Charlotte City Council and Mecklenburg County Commission members Tuesday morning, then head to a lunch with civic and business leaders who support the MLS bid.
In the afternoon, MLS representatives will tour Charlotte Soccer Academy in Pineville. At 5 p.m., organizers are hosting a rally with supporters at First Ward Park uptown. They'll have food trucks and music, as well as appearances by leaders of the Charlotte bid.
The Charlotte ownership group is headed by Bruton and Marcus Smith - of racetrack owner Speedway Motor Sports in Concord. They're waiting for city and county leaders to decide whether to help fund a new $175 million stadium on the site of the current Memorial Stadium uptown.
The Smiths want $44 million each from the county and city. They'd make up the remaining $88 million, and pay a $150 million franchise fee to the MLS.
The county commission gave a preliminary OK for funding in January, but the city council has been cool to a deal. Council members have referred the issue to their Economic Development Committee, which is scheduled to consider it July 20, according to a city spokeswoman.
Organizers have appealed for support in a "Power the Pitch" campaign through social media and a website at MLS4CLT.com.
"We're really excited to have the MLS leadership here to get an up-close look at the passion Charlotte has for soccer," Marcus Smith said in a press release Tuesday.
NORTH CAROLINA FC LEADS RALEIGH BID
North Carolina Football Club is making a pitch for a team in Raleigh. The club will host MLS representatives including Abbott on Wednesday for meetings with local leaders and a promised announcement about a new stadium.
A 5 p.m. rally is planned at City Market in downtown Raleigh.
“We are excited to host Major League Soccer next week,” North Carolina Football Club owner Steve Malik said in press release. “We have a full slate of events planned for them and hope they will see the Triangle’s passion for soccer and desire to bring an MLS team to the area.”
North Carolina FC includes a top-level women's professional team, the North Carolina Courage; a second-level men's team, North Carolina FC, and a youth soccer academy.
July 11, 2017, North Carolina FC announcement
Charlotte MLS bid website, MLS4CLT.com