Major League Soccer heading to North Carolina on expansion visit
North Carolina is next on Major League Soccer’s list as Don Garber and Co. continue their tour of potential expansion cities.
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In a statement released Tuesday North Carolina FC, the club behind the bid, revealed that the MLS expansion committee, led by MLS Commissioner Don Garber and Deputy Commish Mark Abbott, will visit the Triangle on July 19 (next Wednesday) in their latest tour.
North Carolina is one of 12 bids for an MLS expansion franchise, with Cincinnati, St. Louis, Sacramento, San Diego, San Antonio, Tampa/St. Petersburg, Ottawa, Charlotte, Nashville, Indianapolis and Phoenix also in the running.
North Carolina FC (formerly the Carolina Railhawks) of the North American Soccer League are based in Cary, NC, close to Raleigh/Durham, and they have long been seen as a steady contender for one of the two MLS expansion franchises given the large TV market, the huge success of college soccer in the area and solid teams in the lower tiers of the U.S. Soccer pyramid based in the Triangle over many years.
Owner Steve Malik is the main man in this bid and North Carolina FC’s re-branding in 2017, along with the acquisition of the New York Flash of the NWSL who are now the NC Courage, was seen as a key factor in pushing for MLS status. A new 24,000 capacity stadium is also proposed in the Raleigh metro area to house the MLS side.
Next Wednesday Garber and Co. will meet with local business and civic leaders before a press conference where updates will be given on the stadium plans. A public rally in downtown Raleigh will then take place in the evening to put a bow on the visit.
North Carolina FC will be hosting Premier League side Swansea City on July 22 in an exhibition match, so the MLS committee will be visiting ahead of a big match for the NASL club and should get a great feel for the vibe among fans and the entire community.
After his glowing comments about Nashville becoming one of the two expansion franchises set to be announced later this year, it will be intriguing to see what Garber has to say about North Carolina’s chances of grabbing a piece of the MLS pie.