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Charlotte awarded MLS expansion team

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.


  1. Interesting that the team will start in 2021 instead of later, if the 2021 season starts in early March like normal and training camp starts a couple months before that then were only talking about a little over 12-13 months before training camp starts. Thats not much time to build your personal of facilities at all. But Tepper did take over a bid for a city was DOA just a year ago and now he has a franchise so this guy doesn’t waste his time and seems ambitious to me which is important.

  2. Congrats and good luck to Charlotte. I just wish that San Diego would get its act together. One problem is that local leaders rarely lead. By several metrics San Diego is a hot bed. For example, TV viewership of the World Cup is very high in the city, I think second among all major cities. A lot of people drive down to Tijuana just to watch soccer and when we had a women’s team it was very well supported. At least Landon Donovan is heading a group that is putting in a USL team that is supposed to start in 2020. Still, it seems kind of ridiculous that places like Sacramento have a franchise already.

  3. I remember the ATL matches in the Ga Tech stadium before MB was ready and it bordering on miserable in the summer heat. That will be a challenge for that club’s attendance.

  4. Was at BoA stadium over the summer for the Arsenal match. That stadium is a dump and a terrible place to watch a match. No roof!

    • I was just going to say that same thing. This goes above and beyond the usual shakedown.
      This is literally just a payment to MLS. IF we pay $3.6 million to every owner can we join?
      Yes, ok thanks.

    • When they say that $110 million is committed to MLS, it’s in reference to BoA stadium being updated. In Houston, county and city co-own the stadiums and arena. So any change or modification to the building is done by local government. All that with expectations that International games and concerts will come. Out of towners will stay in hotels around town. So this isn’t for MLS but for the expansion into MLS.

  5. I’m a native Charlottean and moved back a few years ago after living in ATL for 15 years. Lots of millenials downtown or uptown as they call it now and as someone else mentioned the Knights AAA team is typically sold out which is unusual for AAA baseball. Charlotte has a lot of transplants just like ATL and a lot folks who move here come with previous NFL allegiances so I guess its possible the same adoption of the home team by the transplants who’ve moved here could happen just like in ATL. I believe Tepper, the new owner of the NFL Panthers, is playing the long game. Word was that he wanted a new stadium for the NFL team after he bought the team last year, but the city wanted none of it. I think his long game is to get the MLS team before the slots are full and wait out about 10 or 15 years before he can demand a new multi sport modern stadium with some sort of city help. If thats the plan its not a terrible idea given the current climate on using city and county funds for stadiums. I think what Charlotte has the potential to be an ATL type franchise but also has the potential to be a miss just as much. A lot of this is going to ride on the owner and his FO, manager, and the players and style of play they bring in. Having been an ATL supporter from before the team was announced and seeing the sidewalk fans embrace both the sport and the team they way the did had a lot to do with two factors in my opinion, first the transplants who had previous NFL allegiances decided this was the ATL team they could get behind and the city turned out for ATL UTD that way, secondly they manager and players created a style of play that first and second year that was exciting and breath taking in a way that brought in fans who normally wouldn’t have cared to watch or follow soccer and it became the ‘cool’ thing in the city. I’m hoping Tepper has the same ambition in terms of manages, players and FO as blank does, he has already shown an enormous ambition to move his bid this far this fast from what was practically an after thought this time last year with the Bruton Smith group’s Charlotte bid that was DOA. Charlotte is a lot smaller than ATL though in population so that’s going to have an effect and certainly selling Charlotte to foreign prospects is not going to be the same as selling a former Olympic city in Atlanta, for instance my family in Brazil all have heard of Atlanta and can generally place it on a map just above Florida but they have no clue about the Carolinas or Charlotte geographically or that the city even exists, so international players may have more second thoughts coming to a smaller lesser know city. My fear is this could end up more like Minn that ATL if it doesn’t get started right with a bit of a buzz. I was living in ATL during the push to bring MLS to ATL and when the bid was won and announce and that made a lot of waves in the city and living in Charlotte today it doesn’t feel the there is same buzz or grass roots push from supporters like there was in ATL when I was there, we had several facebook groups and other groups working with Blank on creating a buzz and I don’t see or feel any of that in Charlotte so I believe this is mostly a huge push being done by the owner himself to get the franchise and I just hope he’s as ambitious once he finally owns a team as he is in pushing to get the team.

  6. 23rd area largest by population. I guess it should be in there. There is money there, which is going to be important the more this explodes.

  7. Charlotte is bit of a wild card. The city is growing very quickly, has plenty of 25-35 year olds with disposable income, but 0 history of supporting a soccer team. It regularly leads AAA baseball in attendance with a downtown stadium that is easy to access (similar to BOA stadium). However, the atmosphere at BOA is going to be an issue. The baseball stadium is perfect size and setup for a walk up crowd to have a night time activity, but there is no way they put enough people in the stadium to get that same atmosphere in a football stadium. Charlotte ticks a lot of boxes on paper, but I am not super optimistic.

    • every place is a wild card, sign a big mexican and suddenly things will look up even in a place like charlotte. Columbus never figured that our, or Colorado (…still catering to the suburbs….what a waste).


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