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Garber: Charlotte at “front of the line” for next MLS expansion slot


Major League Soccer’s recent awarding of an expansion team to the city of Sacramento shifted the league’s attention to filling what will be the 30th spot in MLS and now we know the leading candidate for that team.

MLS commissioner Don Garber confirmed on Friday that Charlotte has emerged as a frontrunner for the next expansion team after

“There are three markets that we are looking at, that our expansion committee has been engaged with,” Garber said on Friday during his MLS State of the League address. “Both Charlotte, Las Vegas and Phoenix.

“It’s fair to say that Charlotte has done a lot of work to move their bid really to the front of the line,” Garber added. “It starts with David Tepper, the owner of the (NFL’s Carolina) Panthers, who is a very passionate guy about sports, very passionate about Charlotte, and is reminding us that the league didn’t really see what Atlanta would become, and I would be the first to admit that. And there’s a lot of things happening in Charlotte that are very similar to things that are happening in Atlanta in terms of the diversity of their fanbase and a lot of the corporate energy that’s going on down there.”

Garber wouldn’t go as far as to say Charlotte has been chosen to follow recent expansion recipients St. Louis and Sacramento as the league’s next expansion market, but his praise of the Charlotte bid made it clear just how good the city’s chances are of being chosen.

“There’s nothing for me to report,” Garber said. “I think (North) Carolina is a good state for soccer. You know that from the women’s soccer perspective, and the youth soccer perspective. And should we be able to move forward, and end up with a team in Charlotte, I’m confident it’ll be successful, but nothing to report.”

Garber wouldn’t put a hard timetable on when MLS would choose its 30th expansion team, only that the decision will be made in the coming months.

Nashville SC and Inter Miami will begin play in 2020, with Austin FC beginning play in 2021. St. Louis and Sacramento are set to join MLS in 2022, which will bring the league’s total to 29 teams.


  1. Born and raised Charlottean myself. Lived in ATL during their expansion plans and supported the ATL bid on facebook and became a big ATL fan and later moved back to Charlotte a few years ago, but will be forever torn if Charlotte gets a club, its my home.

    Speaking of Charlotte first hand its a very very different city to the city I was raised in. The people who live here aren’t from here and native Charlotteans like myself are very rare in the city actually. From a fanbase perspective Charlotte has a vibrant ‘Uptown’ central district with nearby neighborhoods like SouthEnd and NoDa full of young millennials who likely would create a pretty eclectic and vibrant supporters scene. For example, our AAA baseball team the Knights built a Uptown(downtown) stadium a few years back and shortly after my wife and I moved back to the city from ATL I decided we should go to a game. I didn’t even consider that I should buy tickets ahead of time or that they would be sold out but apparently the Knights games are sold out a lot of the time and we had to make other plans that day, this is rare anywhere for AAA baseball and Charlotte has never and I mean never been a baseball town.

    However, that support would only come out in my opinion as long as they play downtown in some sort of hip new stadium. Charlotte has a lot of micro breweries and if they built something with the beer drinking brewery culture mixed in it would be a big draw. However, I hear the plans are to begin playing in Bank of America Stadium which is getting plans done to be renovated for new Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper. Tepper wanted a new stadium altogether and I think its possible part of his reason for interest in a MLS club is to get more leverage on the city to later ask for a new stadium altogether that would house both football and soccer, but thats going to be difficult for the city council to support in my opinion.

    I think Charlotte has a few things going for it, obviously a billionaire team owner is appealing to MLS and it would expand the MLS footprint to the Carolinas, and lots of young millenneials who are looking for activities and events. But, its also a smaller market and if they don’t play downtown that could be a real problem. I also think trying to play in large NFL stadium like Bank of America is different in a smaller market than in markets like Atlanta or Seattle. On the other hand the city does support its pro teams well. Both the Panthers and Hornets are well supported. The Hornets first decade and a half every game was a sell out, the old HIve(Charlotte Colosseum) was always rocking when I was younger. Been to one Panther’s game found it pretty different from every other football game I’ve been too. During tv breaks and or timeouts they blast hip hop music and all the 20 somethings stand up in their seats and were dancing around like it was a rock concerts instead of a football game, then they sit back down when the game restarted.

    I hope they get it right if Charlotte does get the bid, but if they don’t I won’t be crushed and won’t have to make a choice between clubs, they’re won’t be any in between with ATL and Charlotte already a rivalry of sorts between the cities and then throw soccer in the mix and they won’t be friendly.

    • My brother is a retired computer guy who spent about 35 years in that business. He spent about half a dozen years in Charlotte. For those who don’t know, the reason it has changed so much is because it has become a high tech hub for the southeast. Also, the HQ for Bank of America has had a hand in changing the area. Lots of young, well educated and well paid employees have flooded into the area.

      • Yes, banking, finance, and fintech in general are all the primary industries in Charlotte. Our banking history goes quite a ways back to one of the first US Mints in the early 1800s and oddly a small gold rush around that same time.

  2. Because what MLS really needs is a lot more small, useless teams, instead of a limited number of genuinely viable teams that can really invest, compete, and attract quality international players.
    Can’t anyone just stand up to the evil emperor and just say that indefinite MLS expansion is a shameless pyramid scheme?!

  3. It’s bad enough to play in Texas in the summer, but I don’t see how you can play in Las Vegas and Phoenix. Even at night, it rarely gets below 90 in those cities. I wish San Diego would get its act together.

    • You do realize they have USL clubs in Phx and LV, right? They play games at night. Temps considerably decrease and make it very pleasant. Temps will hover around 75-80 during games. It’s not an issue at all.

      • I did forget about the minor league teams. However, your statement about the temperatures is not accurate. I lived in inland California, Riverside County where during the summer it routinely got over 100, yet was never as hot as those two cities. Many nights it did not cool off (under 90) until midnight or later. I had a neighbor who came from the Phoenix suburbs and he said that during the summer they had to run their A/C all night as well as all day.

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