Charlotte’s international soccer calendar might include a visit from Spanish giant FC Barcelona in 2016.
Deputy City Manager Ron Kimble said he met with Barcelona officials about the prospects of the team playing a summer exhibition at Bank of America Stadium during a recent conference in the Spanish city.
“Soccer has become really important to us,” Kimble told the Observer. “What it brings to Charlotte in terms of exposure and economics is huge for us. We felt really good about our talks with Barcelona.”
Soccer has become a summer staple at Bank of America Stadium, which will host two Gold Cup games July 15, one of which will feature the Mexican national team. Gold Cup games were also played in Charlotte in 2011 in front of about 60,000 fans.
Last summer, 66,000 fans watched England’s Liverpool beat Italy’s AC Milan 2-0 in a game that was part of the International Champions Cup.
Mexico also played an exhibition against Iceland in the Carolina Panthers’ stadium in 2010.
Barcelona is one of the world’s top clubs, featuring players such as Lionel Messi, Neymar, Luis Suarez and Xavi.
Kimble said he is talking with other European soccer teams about playing in Charlotte, as well. Soccer games would be part of a deal the Panthers struck with the city that provides five rent-free dates each year at the stadium.
“We love having international soccer games,” said Scott Paul, the Panthers’ director of stadium operations. “It gives us a chance to showcase our stadium to a different kind of patron.”
A potential Barcelona game in Charlotte would coincide with the club’s expansion of its youth soccer programs in the Eastern U.S. Barcelona-run camps will be held this summer Charlotte, Raleigh, Cincinnati and Richmond, Va. Barcelona might also open a soccer academy in Charlotte for high-level youth players.
Charlotte’s camp is scheduled for July 13-17 at Elon Park. Information: www.fcbarcelonaus.com.