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Business Observer Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016 5 years ago

Tampa Bay soccer team shoots for big leagues

The Tampa Bay Rowdies seek to get in Major League Soccer.

ST. PETERSBURG — The Tampa Bay Rowdies, a North American Soccer League Team that plays its home games in downtown St. Petersburg, has launched a campaign to join Major League Soccer.

The team, in a release and press conference held Tuesday, says it's “ready to be the next expansion team” for MLS, the top professional soccer league in the U.S. The campaign includes a privately funded renovation and expansion plan for Al Lang Stadium, home of the Rowdies.

“We are committed to expanding the world's game right here in downtown St. Petersburg, and we feel strongly that joining Major League Soccer is the next logical step,” Rowdies Chairman and CEO Bill Edwards says in the statement. “We have met with MLS executives, including Commissioner Don Garber, and it is clear that they are looking at cities that have demonstrated their support for soccer via season ticket memberships, single game ticket sales and sponsorships.”

The Rowdies were founded in 1974. Edwards, a St. Petersburg area developer, entrepreneur and philanthropist, bought the team in 2013.

“Major League Soccer is watched all over the world,” adds Edwards. “This move will bring national and international exposure to St. Petersburg, while also boosting tourism in the area. Bringing Major League Soccer to St. Petersburg will be a great economic driver for the entire region, and will serve as another platform to unify fans on both sides of the bay."

The effort includes a social media campaign, #MLS2StPete

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