Questions Surround Charlotte MLS Bid

CHARLOTTE, NC — Charlotte has a bid in for a Major League Soccer franchise, but there are still many questions to be answered.

Can the Marcus Smith-led effort beat out eleven other strong candidates? And will the City of Charlotte be part of the push for a new stadium?

“Adding an MLS franchise to Charlotte would be the next best step in the Charlotte sports franchise landscape,” says Smith.

Speedway Motorsports’ Marcus Smith is putting up a $150 million expansion fee and paying half the cost of a proposed $175 million stadium near Uptown in hopes of landing an MLS team.

Mecklenburg County voted to pay $43.75-million and will own the facility that would replace Memorial Stadium and the Grady Cole Center. It was hoped the City of Charlotte would chip in a quarter of the cost, but council members balked at a hurried MLS deadline.

“We’re going gonna have to have some time to understand all the implications of the expenses,” says Mayor Jennifer Roberts. “We didn’t hear about infrastructure expenses for example.”

The field of cities competing is strong, with several NBA owners involved, along with large investment groups and established teams looking to move up from lower leagues.

But it’s known the league wants at least one of four expansion teams in the Southeast. So Charlotte is really competing with Nashville, Raleigh, and Tampa.

“I think it would be a fantastic place for MLS to really put their flag in the Carolinas in a way that wouldn’t be matched anywhere else,” says Smith.

Two new MLS team would start play in 2020, two more expected in 2022. Every bid has strengths and weaknesses. The competition is cut throat.

A promotion video from the San Antonio promotion video says: “We have city and county support. There’s a lot of other communities that do not have that.”

But Smith likes his chances and pushed the bid forward without the city.

“This is going to be something that people look back on in five and ten years, and say this is one of the best things that ever happened in Charlotte,” says Smith.

“The door is still open,” says Roberts. “I don’t think we, you know, slammed it entirely. But it’s going to be a heavy lift. I’ll be honest.”

Major League Soccer says there is time for all cities to iron out stadium specifics, but they must be finished before the selections.