A grassroots movement to lure MLS to Charlotte may be leading to more serious talk, as meetings between Charlotte Independence ownership and MLS officials could lead to efforts toward a meaningful bid.
If Miami ends up with an MLS expansion franchise — and all indications are that the David Beckham group will make a new stadium happen at the Orange Bowl site — then the latest round of MLS expansion, to 24 teams in 2018, will be complete. But after that will surely come another round of MLS expansion, and that’s where Charlotte could end up being included, along with the likes of Sacramento, St. Louis and Indianapolis.
That Charlotte could host a success MLS team depends on a deep-pocketed owner with $100 million for expansion fees and the ability to raise over $100 million — either privately or with public assistance — for a new stadium. Despite the fact that the top three draws in MLS play in football and baseball facilities, MLS’s business vision is centered on soccer-specific facilities. There is an obvious fan base in Charlotte for pro soccer — a Chelsea/Paris Saint-Germain match drew 61,224 fans at Bank of America Stadium this summer — but whether that can translate into an MLS team is the issue. From the Charlotte Business Journal:
This week, an MLS spokesman declined comment when CBJ asked about a recent meeting between Jim McPhilliamy, the managing partner of the Charlotte Independence minor-league soccer club (USL), and two league executives in Denver at the MLS All-Star Game. On Wednesday night, prior to the Independence match at the team’s temporary stadium at Ramblewood, McPhilliamy reiterated his belief that Charlotte has a legitimate chance to land a team. Glancing at the mix of families and Millennials entering the gates, he pointed to the apartment boom in and around uptown, where young professionals have flocked of late, as an important trend for wooing the MLS.
The population is there: 2.4 million in the region. There are also eight Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the area, and that may be the most important MLS stat. However, Charlotte is also home to well-established NBA and NFL teams, which mean there’s significant competition for the sporting dollar.