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North Carolina not deterred by $150M Expansion Price Tag

MLS: State of the League Address
MLS commissioner Don Garber speaks to the media during a State of the League Address at InterContinental Hotel.
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

This week, Major League Soccer set the fee for the next round of expansion into the league at $150 million.

Despite the high cost, Steve Malik, owner of the North Carolina Football Club — formerly known as the Carolina RailHawks — told the Triangle Business Journal that he will have a bid submitted by the Jan. 31 deadline MLS have set for the next round of expansion.

"We are geared up to respond and excited that they put out a timeline," Malik told the Journal. "We're excited to be on the list."

In the report, Malik also identified the three potential sites he hopes to build the team’s stadium on. One of the sites has the ability to house a 24,000-seat stadium, however, Malik said his team are still assessing the traffic issues a stadium at that site would create.

Malik also said the stadium will be paid for entirely with private money, and will cost an estimated $150 million to construct. He said he expects to have other investors in the club and is working with an investment bank.

He was not at all put off by the increased expansion fee MLS commissioner Don Garber announced Thursday at the league’s board meetings in New York. Garber said that 10 markets, including the team in North Carolina, have expressed interest in expansion.

The expansion fee went through a significant hike, and could represent the rising interest in the MLS product. Minnesota, who are set to expand at the beginning of the upcoming season, paid an expansion fee of $50 million less. At $150 million, the fee is larger than the one the NFL charged the ownership group which led the expansion of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers in 1993.

Garber said the league expects to add its 25th and 26th teams in the second or third quarter of 2017. The teams selected in 2017 will begin play in 2020.

The league also plans to add its 27th and 28th teams at a later date.

“There is tremendous interest in professional soccer across the United States and Canada,” Garber said. “Since announcing plans to expand to 28 clubs late last year, many potential ownership groups have contacted us, and numerous public officials have stated their desire to bring an MLS expansion team to their city. We look forward to reviewing expansion applications in the coming months and conducting formal meetings in 2017 with possible team owners.”

Atlanta, along with Minnesota, join the league next season, bringing the total amount of teams to 22; LAFC will follow in 2018. The league also says it plans to expand to Miami, giving it 24 teams.

The MLS said the other markets that have expressed interest in further expansion include Charlotte; Cincinnati; Detroit; Nashville, Tennessee; Sacramento, California; St. Louis; San Antonio, San Diego; and Tampa/St. Petersburg, Florida.