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MLS president praises soccer in the Southeast

  • AP, Friday, April 13, 2012 1 PM

A decade after MLS lopped off its two Florida teams in a cost-cutting contraction, MLS president Mark Abbott paid a visit to the North Carolina Triangle.

He stressed the league has no plans to expand a 20-team alignment it foresees with the addition of a second team in New York. He said he's ''a firm believer'' that MLS would work in the Southeast, but stressed that there's no timetable for growing beyond 20 teams and called it ''premature'' to speculate about Raleigh, Charlotte or any other city. The league eliminated its teams in Miami and Tampa prior to the 2002 season.

''Today was about really coming down and getting a deeper understanding of soccer in this community,'' Abbott said. ''It wasn't a sort of checklist-type of exercise on the road to making an expansion decision. It was an opportunity to learn more about this community and what's happening here in soccer.''

Abbott visited as a guest of the Carolina Railhawks, which started up in 2006 and compete in the North American Soccer League. The Vancouver Whitecaps hired former Railhawks head coach Martin Rennie last fall. The city of Cary hosted either the men's or women's NCAA College Cup for eight straight years (2003-10).

''We've known for a long time that this is a community that has a long tradition of supporting soccer,'' Abbott said.

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