Next week, the Triangle will take one of its most important steps yet in hopes of landing a Major League Soccer team.
Mark Abbott, MLS president and deputy commissioner, will lead a group of MLS executives to meet with North Carolina F.C. leaders July 19, the soccer club announced in a news release Tuesday. The visit will include a public rally at City Market in downtown Raleigh, with local soccer fans getting the chance to show off their passion for the sport and desire for a top-tier team in front of MLS leaders.
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The visit will also feature meetings between the MLS group and local government officials and business leaders, as well as a press conference when North Carolina F.C. leaders will give an update on plans to build a new soccer stadium. The club has not yet decided on a site to build the privately funded $150 million, 22,000-seat stadium.
North Carolina F.C. now plays at Cary’s WakeMed Soccer Park in the North American Soccer League, a tier below the MLS.
The MLS group is touring all 12 markets that have submitted bids for one of four MLS expansion slots. Besides the Triangle, the other markets are Charlotte; Cincinnati; Detroit; Indianapolis; Nashville, Tenn.; Phoenix; Sacramento, Calif.; San Antonio; San Diego; St. Louis; and Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla.
The visit is the continuation of a bidding process that started last December for North Carolina F.C.
Here are the steps that have been taken so far:
▪ Dec. 6, 2016: Club owner Steve Malik announces the team will be renamed from the Carolina Railhawks to North Carolina F.C. as part of a rebranding effort to pursue an MLS franchise.
▪ Jan. 9, 2017: Malik buys the Western New York Flash of the National Women’s Soccer League and relocates the team to Cary as the North Carolina Courage to be an affiliate of North Carolina F.C.
▪ Jan. 31, 2017: North Carolina F.C. officially submits its bid to the MLS and includes a design of a new stadium in the bid.
▪ March 6, 2017: The Wake County Board of Commissioners writes a letter to Abbott in support of the area’s bid for an MLS team.
MLS commissioner Don Garber said in December that the MLS would announce the first two teams it will accept in the third quarter of 2017, so the league could make a decision on the Triangle soon after its visit.
Rally for fans
When: 5 p.m., July 19
Where: City Market, 214 Martin St., Raleigh
More information: The rally is open to the public and will give fans a chance to show their passion and support in front of MLS executives. North Carolina F.C. will provide updates on the event on its social media sites as the date approaches.