MLS Officials Call Charlotte Visit Positive, Productive Despite Funding Questions
MLS officials yesterday had a "very positive and productive" visit to Charlotte that a local ownership group "hopes will help land the city an MLS expansion team that would begin playing" in '20 in a new $175M facility, according to Harrison & Peralta of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. The visit comes as the "controversial public funding portion of the proposed 20,000-seat stadium remains up in the air." MLS President & Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott said that MLS "did not have any discussions about financing, but rather met with business and community leaders and visited the proposed site." Abbott "outlined the four criteria MLS evaluates for potential expansion markets: the ownership group, the stadium plan, community support and how the market can help the MLS grow." The MLS visit was "capped off" with a rally in the city's First Ward Park. A Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer "estimated 200-250 people attended." SMI President & CEO Marcus Smith, who is leading the Charlotte MLS effort, said he has had "overwhelming support and interest" from potential corporate sponsors willing to partner with an MLS team in Charlotte. Smith said that he will "start a season-ticket drive as soon as City Council decides whether it will help pay for the stadium" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 7/19).
ALL THE RIGHT NOTES: In Nashville, Logan Murdock notes organizers are "expecting as many as 60,000 to watch" the Int'l Champions Cup match between EPL clubs Manchester City and Tottenham on July 29 at Nissan Stadium. ICC organizer Relevant Sports Chair Charlie Stillitano said that "more than 45,000 tickets have been sold." Stillitano: "This market is very Premier League centric and very U.S. Soccer centric. The fans have responded really well to it." He added, "Nashville's demonstrated itself as one of those cities that is really a strong market for MLS. This (game) will only reinforce that" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 7/19).
SWITCHING FIELDS: In Las Vegas, Gilbert Manzano notes earlier this year former Orlando City SC COO Brett Lashbrook founded Las Vegas Soccer LLC and "received approval to join the USL" as soon as the '18 season "if he found a place to play home games." Lashbrook does have "visions of possibly having his USL club turn into an MLS team, but he's not letting himself think that far ahead." He is "committed to making the USL franchise work in Las Vegas and drawing 10,000 fans" to Cashman Field on a nightly basis. Las Vegas has "struck out on multiple attempts to join MLS." With the help of Lashbrook, who spent seven years as special assistant to MLS Commissioner Don Garber, Las Vegas is "better suited for making another bid in the future." Lashbrook said, "The last 10 teams to join the MLS, six of them started out in the USL. This pathway and blueprint has worked before. We need to show that Las Vegas has an appetite for soccer, which we strongly believe it does" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 7/19).