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Will Birmingham join Major League Soccer?

July 15, 2009
In a surprise 5-2 vote, Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex board members approve a contract allowing a lead architect to begin designing a domed stadium for Birmingham.

"It's done. I'm ready to get started," mayor Larry Langford said shortly after the board approved the measure.

The vote allows the lead architect to start the process of putting together a team of local architects to assist on a project that will cost more than $550 million and take 5 years to build. The 57,500 seat stadium would be expandable to 70,000 seats in the future.

Langford told the board he has been in talks with several companies interested in paying up to $1 million a year to have their name connected to the dome. He didn't name any of the companies.

"We have fought too long to get to this point. For those wondering when we would start to get private money, we couldn't take that step until we had funding in place. Major League Soccer is looking for a site for a new team. I think Birmingham could now get them here," the mayor said.

The 15-team soccer league, started in 1996, currently has expansion teams expected to debut by 2010 in Philadelphia, Portland, and Vancouver. The league has favored smaller, soccer-specific stadiums for its teams.

July 16, 2009
Dan Courtemanche, an official with Major League Soccer, says that while no formal discussions are under way, the MLS would give Birmingham consideration for future expansion. "We are very well aware of the passion in Birmingham for soccer events and the big crowds you've seen," Courtemanche said. However, cities that didn't make the cut for expansion in 2010 would get first consideration. Two such cities are Atlanta and St. Louis. "We are always open to discussions with cities interested in our league," Courtemanche said.

Courtemanche indicated the dome's artificial turf would not be a strike against it saying, "We have a few teams that play on turf, such as Seattle, which plays indoors."

Birmingham was never granted a team in the MLS. However, in May 2017 the United Soccer League announced they will place a team in Birmingham in 2019. Major League Soccer continued to play through the years and currently has 22 teams across the United States and Canada.

Contact Gene Crowley
Last update: January 11, 2018