North Carolina FC submits bid for MLS expansion along with 11 other cities

Raleigh area hopes to attract MLS team after rebranding, with possible stadium plans on the docket

Christine T. Nguyen—North State Journal
Charlotte Independence midfielder Jun Marques Davidson (6) defends Carolina RailHawks midfielder Nazmi Albadawi (10) during the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday

Last night, North Carolina FC owner Steve Malik celebrated his birthday. On Tuesday, the man who completely rebranded soccer in Raleigh hopes to see his wish come true with an MLS expansion team in Raleigh.The first step started months ago when the former Carolina RailHawks were renamed North Carolina FC, along with a completely new look and direction for the team. What Tuesday brought was the first official step toward a move to the MLS with NCFC’s bid being submitted.Raleigh isn’t the only city looking to move to the MLS, though. Along with the Triangle, Charlotte, Sacramento, Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg, Fla., San Diego, Nashville, Tenn., Detroit, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Cincinnati, San Antonio and Phoenix are all submitted bids. Austin, Tex. was initially expected to put in a bid, but will likely wait for the two spots in 2020.With just four spots to fill, Malik knows the competition is stout. But he’s not concerned.”We’re a soccer city,” Malik said. “[…] We have that history of supporting the sport and being one of the best places in the country for the sport.”The NC Football Club isn’t the only show in town, however, with the North Carolina Courage already moving to Raleigh. The NWSL team has already gone through its first draft, selecting former BYU forward Ashley Hatch — a member of the U.S. Women’s National Team — with its first draft pick at No. 2 overall.Hiring head coach Paul Riley was another huge step for the Courage’s integration into the Raleigh market. But with a star like Hatch on the roster, she can’t wait to make a difference in the NWSL.”I’m super honored and excited,” Hatch said. “I’ve heard lots of great things about North Carolina. I’ve never been so it’ll be an adventure. I feel like I’m an aggressive forward that likes to work hard on defense. I’m excited to learn and develop as a player.”Combining a women’s soccer team and an MLS team won’t be easy, but Malik has some huge plans. According to Dane Huffman of the Triangle Business Journal, Malik’s submission to the MLS included plans for a 22,000-seat stadium that might even include a translucent roof.The renderings were done in part with Gensler architectural firm, who designed the Los Angeles MLS team’s stadium and expanded the stadium in Toronto. If the plans don’t come together quite as quickly as the ownership group hopes, playing at an upgraded WakeMed Soccer Park is another option.With support from every college soccer team around the area including NC State and North Carolina, Malik told the David Glenn Show that he plans to have the community help run the campaign.”If I had to describe our MLS bid all in one word, it would be “cool.'” Malik said. “We are going to come forth with a public campaign. The community owns the team. I learned that, as an owner, you’re a steward.”