On Tuesday, the MLS announced that Charlotte has been awarded the league’s newest franchise. Here’s everything you need to know about the Charlotte MLS expansion team.
For several weeks now, rumors had been really heating up about Charlotte’s possibility of being awarded a Major League Soccer franchise. On Tuesday, those rumors became a reality. Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper purchased the team’s rights for a record $325 million–well above the $200 million paid for previous expansion teams. Charlotte was chosen over several cities, including both Phoenix and Las Vegas. Charlotte will become the 30th and final MLS franchise. Without further ado, here’s everything you need to know about the city’s newest professional team. You can follow the new team on Twitter at @CharlotteMLS.
With the Charlotte franchise yet to be given a team name, Tepper made it clear that he wants fans to be involved in deciding it.
During Tuesday’s press conference, Tepper explicitly stated that he wants fan input in deciding the team’s name. Soon after the conference ended, the team sent out a tweet asking for fans to send in their recommendations. Potential names that could be considered include the following: Charlotte FC, Charlotte Crown FC, Charlotte Monarchs FC, and Charlotte Athletic FC.
The team will begin play in the 2021 season, and will play home games at the Panthers’ Bank of America Stadium.
Upon being granted entry into the MLS, it was announced during Tuesday’s news conference that the franchise will begin play in the 2021 season. During the 2019 season, the MLS fielded 24 teams, including FC Cincinnati, which was in its first season in the league. Two additional franchises–Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC–will compete for the first time in 2020. When Charlotte kicks off its inaugural season in 2021, it will be joined by Austin FC, and then in 2022, the new St. Louis and Sacramento franchises, which would bring the league’s total to 30 teams. Since 2005, the league has doubled its number of teams. The MLS first launched during the 1996 season.
When the Charlotte MLS team begins play in 2021, it will play its home games at Bank of America Stadium, which is also home to Tepper’s Panthers. The stadium has hosted professional soccer games in the past, including three CONCACAF Gold Cup matches, and five International Champions Cup matches. Just this past October, Bank of America Stadium hosted a friendly match between the USWNT and the South Korean women’s team.
As far as facilities go, the team is planning to build its headquarters and practice/training grounds near Eastland Mall, however, in the short-term, the franchise is considering practicing at Charlotte Soccer Academy, which is located about 30 minutes south of uptown Charlotte. In addition to constructing new practice fields and headquarters, Tepper and city management remain in talks to update the nearly 25-year-old Bank of America Stadium.
The addition of the soccer team are the next step in Tepper’s plan to make Charlotte a true sports town.
Soon after purchasing the Panthers last summer, Tepper made his intentions clear about growing sports in Charlotte. Much more hands-on than former owner Jerry Richardson, Tepper has largely remained in the public eye, and has repeatedly expressed his desire for a new stadium, modern training facilities, and a MLS team. Now that he has brought soccer to Charlotte, his next endeavor will likely be to build a new stadium to house both his NFL and MLS teams.
Tepper announced this spring that the Panthers would be constructing new practice facilities in nearby Rock Hill, SC. Upon that announcement, Tepper specifically stated that his goal was to have a new, state-of-the-art stadium built within the next ten years. In doing so, Tepper hopes that it will attract not only the MLS, but also the Super Bowl and NCAA Tournament championship game. During Tuesday’s conference, MLS commissioner Don Garber stated that Charlotte would at some point host the league’s All-Star Game. All that being said, it wouldn’t be a bit surprising to hear official word that a new stadium will break ground in the near future.