It appears Charlottes pro soccer landscape is about to change significantly.
Pro lacrosse executive Jim McPhilliamy told the Observer on Wednesday that he is leading a group to buy the franchise rights of the United Soccer Leagues Pros Charlotte Eagles and intends to put the new team at Memorial Stadium for the 2015 season.
The ultimate goal of the move, according to McPhilliamy, is to bring a Major League Soccer franchise to Charlotte by 2020.
We are going to compete hard for expansion, said McPhilliamy, president of the Major League Lacrosses Charlotte Hounds.
The 19-team MLS will expand by two Orlando, Fla., and a second franchise in New York in 2015. Commissioner Don Garber has said he wants the league to expand to 24 teams by 2020.
The sale of Charlottes USL franchise rights must be approved by the USL. McPhilliamy said the Hounds group has an agreement in place to acquire the rights for about $500,000 at the end of the season. USL Commissioner Tim Holt wouldnt comment on the deal Wednesday.
The Eagles, who have been Charlottes lone pro soccer presence since 1993, will play one final season in USL Pro this summer at the Queens Sports Complex before moving down a notch to the USLs Premiere Development League in 2015. The Eagles are a faith-based organization that has won two USL titles and played in the championship game last season. But they never have had a stadium of their own and struggle to attract a large fan base.
Operating in USL Pro became more than the Eagles could cope with.
It really needs a lot of long-term emphasis, investment and marketing, and thats not something that is a strength of ours as a nonprofit, said Eagles executive director Tom Engstrom. We think the Hounds group will do great with it.
Memorial Stadium, where lacrosses Hounds have played since their first season of 2012, was home to pro soccer during the early 1980s. The American Soccer Leagues Carolina Lightnin played there in 1981-83 and the United Soccer Leagues Charlotte Gold played there the following season.
The stadium has undergone recent renovation to accommodate lacrosse and likely would need further work including enlarging the field for soccer.
Scott: 704-358-5889; Twitter: @davidscott14
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