City leaders not meeting with MLS officials

MLS president to come to Charlotte, but no city officials are scheduled to attend.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Major League Soccer executives who were expected check Charlotte out as a possible destination for an expansion team did not meet with Charlotte City officials.

MLS 4 CLT, the local ownership group vying for an MLS franchise, set up the visit with MLS President Mark Abbott and other top league executives. The group will tour Memorial Stadium in Elizabeth Tuesday, the proposed site for a future MLS team and meet with business leaders. 

The visit will wrap up with a fans rally at First Ward Park. 

"Charlotte is a soccer city," Mike Birch, Chief Strategy Officer for MLS 4 CLT declared. "We will we will have music we will have games, we will have food trucks and craft beer. So it should be a great afternoon to show that Charlotte is ready for a major soccer franchise."

MLS is expected to award two expansion team franchises later this year and two more in the future.

If Charlotte wants to pull out this win, it has to beat out some serious contenders. Sacramento, Raleigh, Nashville and Tampa are some of the 12 cities vying for an MLS team.

"This is a competition, this doesn't happen in a vacuum. Eleven other cities that are working just as hard as we are," Birch asserted.

MLS execs are not set to meet with city officials during this trip. A city spokesperson tweeted, "We welcome Major League Soccer officials to Charlotte. Neither staff nor the city's elected officials will participate in the Tuesday, July 18 meeting as we focus our efforts on the Thursday, July 20, Economic Development Committee meeting where this matter will be discussed."

"I'm curious," said Councilwoman Julie Eiselt. "But we haven't been invited with any kind of schedule as to what the event are and where they are."

Birch says the schedule is flexible and can be quickly changed to accommodate elected officials.

"The elected officials are welcome to come out to the rally as well," he said.

However, an MLS team is still a hard sell for some on the council. Eiselt says it isn't the love of the game that is holding her back, it is the big ticket price. The new stadium carries a price tag of about $175 million. The team ownership would pay half, Mecklenburg County would cover $43.75 million with the city expected to kick in $43.75 million.

"I'm always happy to hear what they have to say, I don't support the current financing structure," she said.

Eiselt says the plan doesn't seem to be winning any fans with the rest of council either.   

"I'm not going to speak for anyone else, but I haven't heard of any big cheerleaders within the ranks," said Eiselt.

The "Power the Pitch Rally" kicks off at 4:30 p.m. at First Ward Park Tuesday. It is free and open to the public. 
 

© 2017 WCNC.COM


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