Soccer

Raleigh, Charlotte face off on MLS pitch

Posted July 17

— North Carolina's two biggest cities and biggest sports fan bases will put their soccer support on display this week when Major League Soccer President Mark Abbott visits in his quest to identify the next site for an expansion team. And fans can make their feelings heard at a public rally in Raleigh at 5 p.m. at 214 E. Martin St.

  • Adam Gold and Joe Ovies of 99.9 FM The Fan ESPN Radio and Jeff Gravley of WRAL-TV sports will broadcast live from the rally.

Abbott and others are on a scouting tour which includes Charlotte on Tuesday and Raleigh on Wednesday. MLS plans to identify two expansion clubs from among 12 applicants by this fall.

Carolina represents a rich sports heritage in an area – the Southeast – where MLS has a geographical gap.

Steve Malik, owner of the NASL North Carolina Football Club (NCFC), has made no secret of his desire for a major league club. Over the past 12 months, he's re-branded the team formerly known as the RailHawks and purchased and moved the defending champions of the National Women's Soccer League.

He is expected to show MLS leadership three sites in the Raleigh area that are possibilities for the stadium an MLS team would need.

"MLS requires a minimum of 20,000 seats with amenities in order to maximize revenue, and a new stadium is vital to our plans as it would increase the economic impact in the area and allow us to better showcase the sport,” Malik said in December.

In its application to MLS, North Carolina FC highlighted the strong historical population growth in the Triangle. The Triangle ranks in the top five among all current MLS markets based on a population-per-professional franchise.

The club also touted its long standing relationship with Capitol Broadcasting Company, the parent company of local media outlets including WRAL-TV, three sports radio stations, WRAL-FM radio and WRAL.com. Capitol also owns the Durham Bulls and has real estate interests in Durham and Rocky Mount.

James F. Goodmon Jr., vice president of Capitol Broadcasting Company, is the chairman of the Triangle MLS Committee.

"The market is ready for an MLS team based on our geographical location, population growth, dynamic economic environment and significant soccer participation," Malik said in December.

On the day before their Raleigh visit, the MLS will hear Charlotte's pitch from Marcus Smith, president of Speedway Motorsports and CEO of MLS4CLT.

"We're really excited to provide MLS leadership with an up-close look at the passion Charlotte has for soccer," he said. "More important, we're looking forward to showcasing all the different ways Major League Soccer can positively impact our community."

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