American Legion Memorial Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina
Courtesy Charlotte Hounds

Report: Charlotte aims for long-term MLS expansion as USL PRO club changes hands

A new ownership group in Charlotte, North Carolina, has announced its long-term ambitions to attract the attention of Major League Soccer as it takes over the city's USL PRO rights, the Charlotte Observer reported on Wednesday.

Queen City Soccer Club, Inc. are expected to formally announce their entry into the third-division professional league on Wednesday, taking the spot vacated by the Charlotte Eagles, who are dropping down to the fourth tier Premier Development League.

The new owners are hopeful their new team, which the Observer reports will be named the Charlotte Independence, can lay the groundwork for future MLS expansion.

“Soccer is the only other major league sport left out there that Charlotte doesn’t have that the city can realistically accommodate,” said Jim McPhilliamy, the president and managing partner of the Charlotte Hounds pro lacrosse team and the leader of the new USL PRO club, which will share a venue and management staff with the Hounds. “We’re working toward that over the next couple of years. But nothing is imminent.”

The new USL PRO club will play home games at American Legion Memorial Stadium, an historic, city-owned downtown venue with a capacity of 21,000. The stadium is set to undergo a major renovation which will widen the playing surface, among other upgrades, and is planned to be completed in time for next season.

McPhilliamy says his organization will need deeper-pocketed investors and he recognizes that they are a long way from being a top contender for a spot in MLS. But he believes Charlotte can tread a similar path to that taken in Orlando, Sacramento and elsewhere.

“I’m kind of skating toward where the puck will be, like [hockey star Wayne] Gretzky used to say,” McPhilliamy told the Charlotte Observer. “If we can strike a chord with that 18-35 (age group demographic), MLS will be watching. But we understand that there are a lot of people doing what we’re doing.”