After buying the Carolina Panthers from former owner Jerry Richardson, David Tepper had something to say about Charlotte sports in his introductory press conference. He wanted to bring an Major League Soccer (MLS) team to Charlotte. Now, less than two years after that statement, Tepper has fulfilled his promise. The purchase was made official on December 17th, 2019 when it was announced that Tepper paid a record $325 million for a MLS soccer team. This was a huge investment in the city of Charlotte and Tepper paid a lot of money to secure that the final MLS expansion team would be coming to the Queen City.
“This is the right time for our league. It’s the right time for the sport of soccer in America and it really is the right time for the ownership group. We wanted to really take our time in making sure that we had a passionate owner that had a commitment to the community, that was in a city that had great history and great passion for the sport, that had a terrific stadium plan and would allow us to create the tremendous momentum we have as we get ready and prepare for the World Cup in 2026,” said Don Garber, the commissioner of the Major Soccer League, in an interview with ESPN.
Tepper also got $110 million dollars from the Charlotte City Council to help purchase the team. One of the reasons Tepper wanted a team was because of the large Latino population. Soccer games in Charlotte have drawn large crowds before. One example of this is when Mexico played in Charlotte and around 50,000 people attended the game. Soccer also fills the void of a summer sport for Charlotte. The Queen City has the Panthers and the Hornets to watch, but they don’t have a sport during the summer. Tepper hopes the new MLS team can fill that void.
“The city is just right for the sport. We have had [soccer] games here and there was pretty good support for the sport. We think we can build a really good fan base. The city needs a sport during that [summer] period. They are traditionally very big soccer fans and you see them when you have the Mexico games here. They will fill the stadium or half-fill the stadium. So I think that is very much an untapped market. …We have a great location to bring out those fans,” said owner David Tepper in an interview with USA Today.
In order to help grow the team, back in 2018 Tepper hired Tom Glick to be the team president of the Carolina Panthers. Many people saw this as Tepper working towards a professional soccer franchise, and they were correct. Glick has a background in soccer. He worked on the business side of things in England before he came to Charlotte.
“I think a Charlotte MLS team will do amazing personally. There is a large soccer following in the Carolinas and a local MLS team will mean there is probably going to be a large fan base. If they turn Bank of America Stadium into their MLS stadium then it will be a great use of existing resources,” said junior Zach Wilmoth.
Glick has said that the team has already received 20,000 deposits for season tickets, even though the team does not begin play until 2021. The team will play in Bank of America Stadium, which is the same stadium the Panthers play in. This gives the team the largest stadium in the MLS with around 75,000 seats. Renovations have already begun on the stadium to make it more suitable for a soccer team.
“We have a list of things to make soccer even better at Bank of America Stadium, and it’s already great, that’s why the attendances are so good, because it’s such a good place to watch. We’ll be putting new television camera placements in to make it even better on television, new soccer locker rooms, a central tunnel, so we’ll have a new way for players to process out [and] some special areas for supporters behind one of the goals on the east side,” said Tom Glick in an interview with WSOCTV.
The team does not have an official name yet but they have filed for trademarks for the potential names. These potential names are Charlotte FC, Charlotte Crown FC, Charlotte Fortune FC, Charlotte Monarchs FC, Charlotte Athletic FC, Charlotte Town FC, Carolina Gliders FC, and All Carolina FC, as reported by the Charlotte Observer. Fans will also have an impact on the name according to Tepper. Hopefully, the name chosen has a typical soccer feel to it while paying tribute to Charlotte’s nickname, the Queen City, in some way. Until the name is released, the team will simply be called Charlotte MLS.
“Having a professional soccer team will be great for Charlotte. The MLS is growing a lot in the US and having a popular soccer team near where I live sounds like something I might be interested in. I think the name ‘Charlotte Athletic FC’ sounds the best,” said junior Ethan Reid.
The team has already hired some personnel on the business side of things, but they will soon turn their attention to the game side. As shown with the Panthers, Tepper will not be afraid to open up his wallet to get the coaches he wants. Tepper has already stated his goal of winning the MLS cup without having a single player on the roster. Charlotte MLS will have an expansion draft and will receive a top draft pick in 2021 to help them grow.
Charlotte soccer fans certainly have a lot to look forward to. The hype for soccer in Charlotte has begun to grow with fans as they eagerly await the team’s first season in 2021. In the meantime, the team will be named, unveil a logo, and decide on their team’s colors. The team will need to start looking for someone to coach and develop this team. In the meantime, fans will watch excitedly as the dream of having a professional soccer team slowly turns into a reality.