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Charlotte’s soccer plan: 2 international games a year for 10 years

dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte hopes to host two international soccer games at Bank of America Stadium every year for the next 10 years, Deputy City Manager Ronald Kimble said Tuesday.

The city is hosting two international matches next month at the stadium and is working on plans for subsequent years, Kimble told about 200 people at the Charlotte Rotary Club’s weekly meeting uptown.

“It’s an opportunity for Charlotte to broker conversations using sports as the entree but (also) allowing businesses in these other countries to connect with us when they come for the friendly matches,” Kimble said.

The games bring not only thousands of fans to the city but also revenue: In August, the match between Liverpool Football Club and AC Milan gathered about 69,400 people from all over the country and generated $16 million in total spending at Charlotte businesses in that weekend, Kimble said.

This summer’s first event, July 15, is a doubleheader featuring Cuba and Guatemala, then Mexico against Trinidad and Tobago. A July 25 match will pit Chelsea Football Club against Paris Saint-Germain Football Club. Kimble expects both events to sell out.

The city is in contact with teams for potential matches in 2016 and 2017, Kimble said; he did not name specific teams.

Soccer can also build connections, said Lucia Griffith of the Charlotte Chamber’s executive committee. The sport played a role in bringing Costa Rica President Luis Guillermo Solis to Charlotte in May, she said.

Daniel Araujo, a former professional soccer player who lives in Charlotte, is director of operations for Costa Rica’s Puntarenas Football Club; he invited Costa Rica’s minister of tourism to Charlotte, which led to a visit from the minister of trade and eventually the country’s president, Griffith said.

“That’s where we see the potential for soccer,” she said. “The people who either own teams or play really (can be) the movers and shakers in the country.”

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