Major League Soccer executives visited Charlotte Tuesday to review the city’s bid for a new MLS team and gauge the community’s support for it. The trip comes at a time when the question of public funding for a soccer stadium is still up in the air.
MLS President Mark Abbott described his visit to Charlotte as "very positive and productive.” He met with business leaders and people in the soccer community.
"I couldn't help but be struck by how proud they are of this community, and justifiably so, and the sense of unity that I saw in not only their desire to bring major league soccer, but in their desire to build and continue to build a great community," said Abbot.
A dozen cities, including Raleigh, submitted bids. To help show support for a team MLS4CLT held a rally uptown. That's the ownership group behind Charlotte's proposal. It's led by Marcus Smith. He took to the stage at First Ward Park.
“I need a really, really big welcome from Charlotte, from the Queen City, for the President of Major League Soccer, Mark Abbott. Let’s hear it!”
The crowd of about 200 cheered. Deevo Tindall was one of them. He plays soccer and is excited about the prospect of a MLS team in Charlotte. He thinks it would pay off for the city.
“I’ve lived in MLS cities before and I know what the buzz it creates. It’s good for the economy. It’s good for the lifestyle. It’s good for everything," said Tindall.
The MLS has made it clear that any bid requires a dedicated MLS stadium. Charlotte's proposal would re-make Memorial Stadium just east of uptown into one. It comes with a price tag of $175 million. Smith wants the city and county to provide half of that. He feels confident the county will approve its share.
“I don’t know where the city’s going to come out. I think that we have a great opportunity to bring major league soccer to Charlotte," said Smith.
And if the city doesn't agree to pay the 44 million or approves a number less than that?
“We’ll have to cross that bridge when we come to it," Smith replied.
The city's economic development committee is scheduled to discuss the funding tomorrow. The county is expected to vote on it August 2nd. The MLS will let cities know by the end of the year whether major league soccer will be coming to their town in 2020.