North Carolina FC submits application for Major League Soccer bid, stadium plans to be released

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CARY – Facing a Jan. 31 deadline, The North Carolina Football Club (FC) has submitted its application to Major League Soccer (MLS) as part of the league’s process to determine its next round of expansion.

Currently, MLS has 22 franchises across the United States and Canada. In December 2016, the league released its criteria and timeline for continued growth. MLS acknowledged 10 markets, including the Raleigh/Durham area, as potential landing spots for a new franchise.

North Carolina FC could soon become an MLS franchise. Photo courtesy- North Carolina FC.
North Carolina FC could soon become an MLS franchise. (Photo courtesy of North Carolina FC)

Leading up to the MLS expansion announcement at the end of last year, North Carolina FC launched a re-branding effort as former Carolina RailHawks of the North American Soccer League. Owner Steve Malik identified several goals to pursue an top tier franchise and recently executed the acquisition of a women’s professional soccer team now known as North Carolina Courage.

“We have made incredible strides in just over a month since we received the MLS application information,” Malik said. “We will continue to use our aggressive campaign by rallying the community behind our initiatives as we continue on our parallel paths of securing a new purpose-built stadium and expanding our corporate and individual membership.”

MLS rolled out its barometer for expansion based on stable ownership, a stadium in addition to strong corporate and soccer support.

In its application, North Carolina FC highlighted the strong historical growth in the Triangle, which is one of the fastest growing regions in the country for over a decade, giving it the highest growth rate among MLS-contender markets. Its central location between Washington D.C. and Atlanta effectively connects the northeast to southeast to create immediate natural rivalries, also showcasing a desire to fill void in a top 25 television market.

The club also touted some of the strides it has made since Malik purchased the team in late 2015, emphasizing the substantial growth in revenue across all of its lines of business, as well as its successful exhibition matches against Liga MX’s Toluca FC and the English Premier League’s West Ham United.

In regard to a new stadium, North Carolina FC will reveal more information on its plans in the coming weeks. Currently, the club plays at the WRAL Soccer Park, a 3,200 seat arena in Raleigh. Among some of the other cities looking to add MLS to its resume include: St. Louis, San Diego, Tampa/St. Petersburg, Nashville, Cincinnati and Detroit.