Major League Soccer execs to tour 2 NC cities for new team location

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Major League Soccer executives are visiting two North Carolina cities beginning Tuesday as they scout out locations for new teams to locate.

Raleigh and Charlotte submitted bids earlier this year.

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The league is planning to expand the number of teams, with 12 cities across the country vying to be chosen. The MLS could announce sites for two new teams this fall.

MLS President and Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott will be among the people visiting.

While executives are in Raleigh Wednesday, some of the region’s biggest fans will hold a march and rally downtown.

“I want them to see that here, to see what we have and what we’ve built over the years and the excitement for the sport we’ve brought here,” said Ryan Jernigan, founder of Oak City Supporters. “We’re growing out rapidly. Soccer culture here is a big thing.”

Oak City Supporters are organizing a march from London Bridge Pub at 110 E. Hargett St. in downtown Raleigh that will end at City Market at 214 E. Martin St. for a rally organized by North Carolina FC. The march begins at 4:30 p.m. and the rally starts at 5 p.m.

MLS executives begin their trip to North Carolina in Charlotte Tuesday. In the Queen City, the bid calls for taxpayer money to fund the stadium where the team would play. Local leaders have raised concerns about the plan, calling into question whether it’s feasible.

“There’s not $44 million from the city, from our tourism dollars. We have $30 million at the most, if the council agrees to that,” said Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts last week.

In Wake County, Steve Malik, who owns the North Carolina Football Club, said a new stadium would be funded by private investors. It’s expected to cost about $150 million and seat 22,000 people.

Public money could potentially be used for infrastructure upgrades in the area where the stadium would go. That location still hasn’t been revealed.

While MLS executives are in town, Sig Hutchinson, who is chair of the Wake County Board of Commissioners, will meet with them. He said there haven’t been conversations yet about what local funding could be involved.

“There’s a lot of questions that need to be asked, but we are truly supportive of MLS soccer. We want it to be right here in Wake County,” said Hutchinson. “So many of these other cities have a professional football team. That’s number one for them. We don’t want to be professional football. We want to be professional soccer.”

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