MLS executives to visit North Carolina amid expansion efforts

MLS executives, including president and deputy commissioner Mark Abbott, will pay a visit to North Carolina FC and the Triangle area on July 19 as part of their tour of potential MLS expansion cities, the club announced on Tuesday.

The MLS contingent will meet with business leaders and government officials and participate in several events organized by NCFC to showcase the Raleigh-Durham market as it pursues an MLS franchise.

"We are excited to host Major League Soccer next week," North Carolina FC owner Steve Malik said in a release. "We have a full slate of events planned for them and hope they will see the Triangle's passion for soccer and desire to bring an MLS team to the area."

MLS executives will start the day with a meeting that includes business and civic leaders, before attending a news conference where the current NASL club will give an update on its stadium plans. The conference will be followed by a tour of the Triangle area and the day will conclude with a public rally in downtown Raleigh.

North Carolina is one of 12 contenders for four MLS expansion slots. Two of the slots are expected to be announced before the end of the year. Besides North Carolina, the other candidates are Charlotte, Cincinnati, Detroit, Indianapolis, Nashville, Phoenix, Sacramento, St. Louis, San Antonio, San Diego, and Tampa/St. Petersburg.

The trip to Raleigh comes on the heels of MLS commissioner Don Garber's visit to Nashville last weekend that was in conjunction with the Gold Cup opener between the U.S. and Panama, a match held before 47,622 fans in Nashville's Nissan Stadium.

"Over the last six months, Nashville has really risen pretty high on the list" of potential expansion sites, Garber said on Friday.