MLS commissioner feels encouraged during Charlotte visit - | WBTV Charlotte

MLS commissioner feels encouraged during Charlotte visit

Marcus Smith of Speedway Sports (Devin Futrelle | WBTV) Marcus Smith of Speedway Sports (Devin Futrelle | WBTV)

Major League Soccer got a big push two days before Charlotte City Council weighs in on funding a professional franchise.

First Ward Park was full of fans and entertainment to impress league officials who came to town for a site visit on Tuesday. Marcus Smith, who heads up Speedway Sports, is the driving force behind the effort.

"Now is the right time for Charlotte with Major League Soccer,” Smith said prior to the uptown rally.

Deputy MLS Commissioner Mark Abbott is testing the waters and appears to be impressed with the proposed Memorial Stadium site, and encouraged with the meetings he had with local business leaders.

“We’re in a very exciting time in the history of Major League Soccer. We’re in our 22nd season now with 22 teams," Abbott said. “As we announced in December, we’re looking to grow to 28 teams.”

The events were well choreographed with logos, themes, and green and white color-coordinated scarfs. For business leaders like Michael Smith of Center City Partners, it is showtime for professional soccer.

“This visit will provide further insights to support our city’s further evaluation process to support MLS in Charlotte,” Smith said.

City council members and county commissioners who have had funding concerns were not seen at the day’s soccer events.

Asked if he would go it alone if government funding doesn’t go through, Marcus Smith said, “We’ll have to cross that bridge when we come to it.”

The Charlotte City Council Economic Development Committee will take the up MLS question at noon on Thursday.

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