Yesterday evening, hundreds of Oak City soccer fans flooded downtown Raleigh in support of the North Carolina Football Club’s January bid for a Major League Soccer franchise. The night began around four thirty with a march from London Bridge Pub and ended with a rally in City Market, sponsored by Lonerider, which gave out free beer .
The rally, held in conjunction with a visit from MLS president and deputy commissioner Mark Abbott, was part of an effort to make Raleigh stand out among the dozen other cities across the nation—including Charlotte—vying for a MLS franchise.
North Carolina FC was established in 2016 and has quickly become one of the largest youth-to-professional soccer organizations in the nation. The club itself is made up of a women’s First Division Team, North Carolina Courage (NWSL); a men’s Second Division Team, North Carolina FC (NASL); and a Premier Development League Team, North Carolina FC U23 (USLPDL). The club additionally has formed partnerships with both the Triangle Futbol Club Alliance (TFCA) and the Capital Area Soccer League (CASL), two North Carolina-based youth soccer clubs.
The rally was held shortly after the release of a promotional video on the North Carolina FC’s website earlier in the day announcing the club’s preferred location and design for an MLS stadium complex in downtown Raleigh. The video, which was shown at the rally, features a footprint that is around thirteen acres in the area currently known as the State Government Complex. According to owner Steve Malik, the construction of the stadium would be backed to the tune of $150 million by private investors and can seat over twenty-two thousand.
Many Triangle fans see the complex as a great investment that could attract even more national and local attention to the soccer scene in both the Triangle and in North Carolina.
“I can’t imagine how having access to a complex like that and role models like the players for North Carolina Courage could’ve impacted my soccer career,” said former Green Hope High School women’s soccer state champion and NCFC fan Kat Stafford. “This stadium—and the MLS—could help so many youth clubs get recognition, funding, and the training they need.”
Players from both North Carolina FC and North Carolina Courage attended the rally, immersing themselves among the fans and leading chants and songs.
“I love that the team has been so personable and willing to take pictures and talk with their fans,” said Dalia, a die-hard NC Courage fan and Oak City resident. “They are such a genuine players and people.”
“We love soccer,” added Isidro, a North Carolina FC fan and long-time Raleighite who, like Dalia, did not want to give her last name. “We love North Carolina. Bring MLS here!”
The announcement of which cities will get an MLS bid is set to happen in the fall.