Tom Sorensen

Missed MLS opportunity – for a stupid reason – will leave us kicking ourselves

The reason Charlotte won’t be a destination for Major League Soccer expansion? It’s stupid.
The reason Charlotte won’t be a destination for Major League Soccer expansion? It’s stupid. AP

Major League Soccer will not come to Charlotte, and we missed an opportunity.

Detractors frame the issue like this: If you commit to soccer you do nothing more than help Marcus and Bruton Smith, the rich people who would own the franchise, become richer. The end.

Charlotte has thousands of young people – young people who arrived long after the inception of the Carolina Panthers and Charlotte Hornets – and this team would have been theirs. Memorial Stadium, which is where downtown and Elizabeth come together, was an ideal location.

We – Charlotte and Mecklenburg County – would have spent money to procure the team. The stadium would have cost an estimated $175 million. Spending money is what you do to attract professional sports (and corporations). We spent money on the Charlotte Knights’ BB&T Ballpark. You ever see a game there? It’s one of those places you bring out of town guests.

Or you could sit them down and complain about investing in your city. But they might enjoy that less.

City elections are approaching and anybody who advocated for a soccer stadium would have been fried by at least a faction of his or her constituents.

The timing was poor. But if you were here when the stadium, arena and ballpark were built, the timing is never good, and it never will be.

I don’t follow soccer. I didn’t know that the U.S. Men’s national team was playing Trinidad and Tobago until they lost, and that the loss eliminated them from the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

But Charlotte soccer games would have superseded soccer. They would have given Charlotte another option. Games could have become events. I like events.

You can make several strong arguments against Charlotte’s MLS campaign. Making rich guys richer is not one of them.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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