Charlotte MLS team

The Charlotte MLS team is a future Major League Soccer expansion franchise that is expected to begin play in 2021. The team will play at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. The team is owned by David Tepper, who was awarded the expansion franchise on December 17, 2019.[1]

Charlotte MLS team
FoundedDecember 17, 2019; 1 month ago (2019-12-17)
StadiumBank of America Stadium
Charlotte, North Carolina
Capacity75,325
OwnerDavid Tepper
LeagueMajor League Soccer
WebsiteClub website

HistoryEdit

Soccer in CharlotteEdit

The Charlotte area has historically been home to several lower-division soccer teams, dating back to the Carolina Lightnin' in the early 1980s. The Lightnin' won the American Soccer League championship in 1981, played in front of 20,163 people at American Legion Memorial Stadium.[2] After the league folded in 1983, the team played for one season as the Charlotte Gold in United Soccer League before ceasing operations.[3] Professional soccer did not return to Charlotte until the founding of the Charlotte Eagles in 1991, who joined the USISL in 1993.[4][5]

Charlotte was on the list of cities interested in joining Major League Soccer (MLS) in 1994, prior to the league's inaugural season, but was not awarded a franchise.[6] Charlotte was also named as a potential home for an expansion team in 1996 and 1998, but passed over in favor of other cities.[7][8] The Charlotte Convention Center hosted the MLS SuperDraft and National Soccer Coaches Association of America conference in January 2004.[9] Since a renovation to Bank of America Stadium in 2014, the city has hosted several friendly and international matches, including the CONCACAF Gold Cup and the International Champions Cup, which drew strong attendance figures.[4][10] The area also has a large soccer-playing population, centered around recreational leagues that have led other efforts to attract a professional team to Charlotte.[11]

Unsuccessful MLS bidsEdit

A separate professional team, the Charlotte Independence, was founded in 2014 and replaced the Eagles in the second division (now named the USL Championship).[12] The team moved into a permanent soccer stadium in Matthews, North Carolina, in 2017.[13] The Independence's ownership group had expressed their goal of winning an MLS expansion team when the club was founded,[5] and proposed a major renovation to American Legion Memorial Stadium in 2015 that would make it into soccer-specific stadium.[14] The team hired a sports investment firm in October 2016 to advertise the MLS bid to potential investors while preparing further stadium plans.[15]

A separate Charlotte bid was formed in late 2016 by Marcus G. Smith of Speedway Motorsports, the owners of the Charlotte Motor Speedway, with support from local business leaders.[16] The bid proposed building a new stadium at the Legion Stadium site with 20,000 to 30,000 seats that would cost $175 million, including $87.5 million funded by the city and county governments and a $75 million loan to the ownership group.[17] The Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners voted 5–3 in favor of the stadium plan, while the Charlotte City Council decided against a vote on the issue before the bid deadline on January 31, 2017.[18][19]

Smith submitted the bid without the city council's support, instead relying on the county government's funding plan.[20] Several league officials toured Charlotte in July 2017, but the city council and county commissioners both canceled their meetings during the tour.[21][22] Charlotte also faced competition from a bid submitted by Raleigh, North Carolina, who were also part of the twelve-city shortlist and had support from the state government.[23] The Mecklenburg County government voted in August against their financial contribution to the stadium project in favor of deferring the issue to the city government, who declined to vote on the issue.[24][25] MLS narrowed its shortlist of candidates in November 2017 to four cities, leaving out Charlotte.[26]

Tepper bidEdit

Hedge fund manager and billionaire David Tepper became the owner of the National Football League's Carolina Panthers in July 2018 and suggested his interest in bringing Major League Soccer to Charlotte.[27][28] The Panthers' new team president, Tom Glick, was formerly the chief operating officer of Manchester City F.C. and was also involved in the MLS expansion bid for New York City FC.[29] Glick was placed in charge of organizing an MLS expansion bid for Tepper, who had several meetings with league officials before the next bidding window was opened in April 2019.[30][31]

Tepper presented a formal expansion bid for Charlotte to the league in July 2019, shortly before meetings with league officials and additional tours of Bank of America Stadium.[32] He announced plans in September to upgrade the existing Bank of America Stadium to make it suitable for an MLS team, which would include up to $210 million in contributions from the city government.[33] Tepper also discussed constructing a new stadium for the Panthers and a soccer team that would have a retractable roof.[34][35] In November, MLS commissioner Don Garber named Charlotte as the frontrunner to earn the slot for the 30th team, praising Tepper's efforts and the bid's plans.[36]

The Charlotte City Council approved $110 million in stadium and franchise funding in late November, using revenue from a hospitality tax.[37] The MLS Board of Governors convened in early December to discuss the Charlotte bid and authorized final negotiations with Tepper.[38][39] The expansion team was officially awarded to Charlotte by MLS at an event at the Mint Museum on December 17, 2019, and is set to begin play in 2021.[1] The expansion fee to be paid by Tepper is reported to be near $325 million, a 62.5 percent increase from what was paid by the successful bids for St. Louis and Sacramento earlier in the year.[40][41] The team sold 7,000 season ticket deposits in the first 24 hours after the expansion announcement.[42]

Club identityEdit

In December 2019, several media outlets reported that Tepper Sports had submitted a trademark filing that included eight potential names: Charlotte FC, Charlotte Crown FC, Charlotte Fortune FC, Charlotte Monarchs FC, Charlotte Athletic FC, Charlotte Town FC, Carolina Gliders FC, and All Carolina FC.[43] The bid organizers signed a multi-year agreement with Ally Financial in July 2019 to be the kit sponsor for the then-unannounced MLS team.[44][45]

StadiumEdit

 
Bank of America Stadium, the club's planned home

The team will play at Bank of America Stadium, a 75,525-seat American football venue that is the home of the Carolina Panthers of the National Football League.[46] A major renovation, to be partially funded by the city government, is planned to accommodate soccer at the stadium, including new locker rooms and a center tunnel.[37] The team plans to only use the lower bowl and club sections of the stadium, capping capacity at around 40,000 seats.[47] The team's headquarters and practice facilities are planned to be located on the former site of the Eastland Mall, a city-owned property.[37][48]

Ownership and managementEdit

The team is owned by David Tepper, a billionaire hedge fund manager and businessman. He became the owner of the National Football League's Carolina Panthers in 2018.[49] Tepper is the wealthiest owner in both the NFL and MLS, with an estimated net worth of $12 billion.[34] Zoran Krneta, a professional scout, was hired as the team's sporting director in December 2019.[50] Former Carolina Dynamo head coach Marc Nicholls was named the club's technical director in January 2020 and will direct the youth academy system.[51]

Club cultureEdit

The largest local supporters group, the Mint City Collective, was launched in June 2019 to support the MLS expansion bid. It was founded by several members of the Roaring Riot, a Panthers fan club, and has 600 members as of December 2019.[52][53] Other supporters groups include the Queen's Firm, founded in 2017,[54] and West End Collective.[55]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b Bogert, Tom (December 17, 2019). "Major League Soccer awards expansion team to Charlotte". Major League Soccer. Retrieved December 17, 2019.
  2. ^ "Carolina wins ASL title". Detroit Free Press. Associated Press. September 20, 1981. p. D11. Retrieved December 17, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.  
  3. ^ Taylor, Phil (May 18, 1984). "USL: An infant in a dying sport". The Miami Herald. p. F5.
  4. ^ a b Scott, David (July 14, 2015). "Does soccer success equal MLS? Charlotte has league's attention". The Charlotte Observer. p. B1. Retrieved December 17, 2019.
  5. ^ a b Scott, January 16, 2014. "Hounds group taking over Charlotte Eagles". The Charlotte Observer. p. C1. Archived from the original on October 7, 2014. Retrieved December 17, 2019.
  6. ^ Carmen, Barbara (March 22, 1994). "Columbus begins drive to pursue Major League Soccer franchise". The Columbus Dispatch. p. F3.
  7. ^ Langdon, Jerry (August 19, 1996). "League to expand to 12 teams in 1998; goal is 16 by 2004". USA Today. p. C7.
  8. ^ Utter, Jim (April 18, 1998). "Charlotte may be on MLS's horizon". The Charlotte Observer. p. B3.
  9. ^ Scott, David (January 16, 2004). "Soccer convention brings exposure". The Charlotte Observer. p. C2.
  10. ^ Harrison, Steve; Lyttle, Steve (February 4, 2014). "Stadium renovation deal helps attract top soccer match". The Charlotte Observer. p. A1.
  11. ^ Ordoñez, Franco (November 12, 2005). "If it's Sunday, it's time for fútbol". The Charlotte Observer. p. B1.
  12. ^ Scott, David (September 18, 2014). "Charlotte now has Independence". The Charlotte Observer. p. B1. Archived from the original on October 6, 2014. Retrieved December 17, 2019.
  13. ^ Scott, David (February 1, 2017). "Independence soccer team moving to Matthews from temporary complex at Ramblewood". The Charlotte Observer. Retrieved December 17, 2019.
  14. ^ Harrison, Steve (June 29, 2015). "Could a new stadium lure Major League Soccer to Charlotte?". The Charlotte Observer. p. A1. Retrieved December 17, 2019.
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External linksEdit