The Charlotte Eagles are currently members of USL PRO, but recent reports have the team moving down to USL PDL and selling their USL PRO rights to form a new team. In turn, the prospective owners of the new USL PRO team could be paving the way to an eventual MLS bid.
That's the report from North Carolina, as The Charlotte Observer reported earlier this month a new ownership group led by pro lacrosse team owner Jim McPhilliamy are set to buy the local USL PRO rights. McPhilliamy has been vocal in his ambitions to take the new USL PRO team up to MLS one day.
“We are going to compete hard for expansion [to MLS],” said McPhilliamy in the Observer article.
Among the positives of a Charlotte bid to join MLS is that a venue -- Memorial Stadium -- has already been built. The structure, which was built in 1936, has a current capacity of 17,500 and was last remodeled in 2011. According to an article by the Charlotte Business Journal, McPhilliamy and his partners are looking to widen the field and install turf in order for it to be used by both the lacrosse team, the Charlotte Hounds, and a soccer team.
Although reports indicate that the transfer of the USL PRO rights in Charlotte appears to be a done deal, the sale will only take place in September 2014, at the end of the Eagles' final season in USL PRO. The Eagles are moving down a division in part due to their status as a non profit, according to the Observer article.
If McPhilliamy and partners do carry out the purchase of the USL PRO rights and seek to become an MLS expansion team in the future, they will follow in the footsteps of Orlando City SC, who will play one final season in the division this year before playing in MLS from 2015.
MLS officials have mentioned the aim of the league to expand to 24 teams by 2020. With Orlando City and New York City FC entering in 2015, there will be 21 teams in the league. Behind the backing of David Beckham, Miami has been touted as the 22nd team, and MLS Commissioner Don Garber has said there will be an announcement concerning that bid next month. Atlanta has also been touted as a potential expansion city by Garber.
The league office had not responded to MLSsoccer.com's request for comment at the time of publication.