The inevitable hasvbecome reality in Charlotte, where Major League Soccer has announce its newest expansion market on Tuesday.
Charlotte has been awarded an MLS expansion team, and is set to begin play in 2021, alongside fellow newcomer Austin FC.
Charlotte has won out over a field that included Phoenix and Las Vegas, and will follow recent MLS expansion teams awarded to St. Louis and Sacramento. Those expansion teams, along with looming addition Austin FC, will bring the total of MLS teams to a whopping 30.
David Tepper, who owns the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, has helped Charlotte complete a bullish march to MLS expansion for a market that wasn’t even in the picture for MLS expansion as recently as three years ago. Back then, Raleigh would have been considered the more likely North Carolina destination for MLS, but Tepper’s financial muscle and aggressive courtship of MLS led Charlotte to fly up the expansion list, and will now lead to an MLS expansion team.
The MLS Board of Governors had recent meetings in New York, where its expansion committee approved Charlotte’s bid to be brought before the full board for a vote. At the time, Don Garber cautioned that there were still some stadium-related issues that needed to be sorted out in order for the Charlotte bid to be in a position to be approved.
The city of Charlotte committed $110 million to the expansion bid, in the form of improvements to Bank of America Stadium, as well as land for a team training facility, a commitment that helped the bid clear its final hurdle ahead of being approved by MLS.
The MLS Charlotte expansion team is slated to play at Bank of America Stadium, home to the Carolina Panthers, and a venue that is no stranger to soccer, having hosted recent U.S. Women’s National Team matches and multiple club friendlies, as well as several Mexican national team matches.
Charlotte becomes the 30th MLS expansion team, but will begin play in 2021, before Sacramento and St. Louis, which are both scheduled to begin play in 2022.