MLS bidders say Charlotte’s chances of landing a team aren’t dead yet

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Major League Soccer has largely fallen off of Charlotte’s radar in the past year.

Speedway Motorsports president Marcus Smith spent much of 2016 and 2017 negotiating for a new stadium near Uptown to make a bid for one of four new expansion teams in Major League Soccer.

That all but came to a halt last August, when Mecklenburg County commissioners made the decision to take Memorial Stadium off the table — dealing a crippling blow to Charlotte’s bid for an MLS team.

But Smith’s group — known as MLS4CLT — is still holding out hope that Charlotte’s chances of landing a team aren’t dead yet.

There are rumblings that Charlotte’s soccer dreams could burst back onto the scene.

[Need to catch up on Charlotte’s quest for a Major League Soccer team? Read the Agenda’s coverage here.]

Marcus Smith

Why? Well, Major League Soccer is still looking for new cities.

Despite the urgency that the league has tried to cultivate, the timeline is ever-expanding. Even with recent expansions to Cincinnati, Nashville and Miami, there are still at least two more slots.

Mike Burch, chief strategist of the MLS4CLT campaign and an executive at Speedway Motorsports, declined to comment, saying it would be better to wait a few weeks to discuss.

But on social media, MLS4CLT is making the case that their work is ongoing. The group is reportedly scouting for new stadium sites, lining up financing and sponsors and garnering more public support.

“These involve discussions that one or both parties wish to remain confidential,” they wrote on Twitter.

Unconfirmed reports say MLS4CLT has honed in on a few potential stadium sites.

This rendering of a new soccer facility on the site of Memorial Stadium won’t come to fruition.

Another group has popped up to support the bid.

The Queens Firm is hosting FIFA watch parties at Charlotte soccer bars and collecting email addresses of Major League Soccer supporters.

Queens Firm has speculated on potential stadium sites, called for team name ideas and sat down with Burch for three hours in May to find out how they could help.

Last month, they distributed a survey asking where fans would like a stadium and evaluating design styles and last week they took part in Taste of Charlotte.

Could Charlotte’s MLS dreams get another billionaire backer?

The sale of the Carolina Panthers to billionaire hedge fund mogul David Tepper could unexpectedly add more fuel to the city’s MLS bid.

It’s at least on his radar. During a brief introductory press conference, Tepper made reference to an MLS team coming to Charlotte.

Here’s the quote, as transcribed by the Charlotte Business Journal. The question was about whether he’ll bring on local investors to co-own the Panthers.

“I’m trying to figure out the structure right now. Obviously, there’s some advantages to having some local partners. I’m trying to determine the development I want to have in the community. And so the more development there is in the community, it might make it more difficult to have minority partners. If you want to do, for instance, an MLS team or something like that, which might make some sense if you are in Charlotte. Or you do other things. I’m trying to determine that (over) the next six weeks (before the sale closes).”

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Andrew Dunn
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Editor-in-Chief