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Independence Owner Thinks Women's Pro Soccer Is A Fit For Charlotte

Architect's drawing shows plan for a renovated Memorial Stadium near uptown Charlotte. JenkinsPeer Architects is working with the county.
Mecklenburg County/JenkinsPeer Architects
Architect's drawing shows plan for a renovated Memorial Stadium near uptown. The men's pro soccer team Charlotte Independence will move there in 2020, and a women's pro team could play there, too.

Charlotte missed out on winning a Major League Soccer franchise last year. But hopes remain that the city might still have a shot, especially since Carolina Panthers' owner David Tepper keeps saying he's interested. But what if a women's team became the first top-level professional club here? 

Jim McPhilliamy
Credit Charlotte Independence
Jim McPhilliamy

That idea comes from Jim McPhilliamy, owner of the Charlotte Independence. The men's professional soccer team plays in the second-level United Soccer League, at a county-owned soccer complex in Matthews. They're planning a move in 2021 to a renovated Memorial Stadium near uptown.

"It's going to be the perfect size venue for a USL team, it could be a perfect size venue for an NWSL women's soccer team. It could be great for a rugby team. It could be great for a lot of things that don't draw 50,000 people to a game," McPhilliamy said, on a segment of WFAE's Charlotte Talks Wednesday that mostly focused on the city's chances of getting an MLS team.  

The NWSL - National Women's Soccer League - currently has nine teams - including the defending champion Carolina Courage in Cary. League executives have said they'd like to expand at some point.

McPhilliamy said in an email later Wednesday that he has been in "high-level" discussions with the NWSL about bringing a women's team here.

There's nothing imminent, he says, but the league is very interested. He thinks a women's team would "compliment the men's team and a couple other initiatives we are working on." 

As for Charlotte's chances of getting an MLS team, they're slim at the moment. The league has only one slot left in its current expansion, and a list of other cities are seen as front-runners - including Sacramento and St. Louis.

David Boraks previously covered climate change and the environment for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.