Charlotte FC Profile
MLS expansion team, who ground-share with NFL's Carolina Panthers, to make debut in 2022.
Charlotte FC were announced as the 28th MLS team on December 17, 2019. The team are owned by David Tepper, who also also owns the NFL's Carolina Panthers. CLTFC will play at Bank of America Stadium, which has been the Panthers' home stadium since 1996.
The Charlotte FC name was announced on July 22, 2020, during a virtual event. The name was chosen over other finalists Charlotte Crown FC, Charlotte Fortune FC, Charlotte Monarchs FC, Charlotte Athletic FC, Charlotte Town FC and All Carolina FC.
The crest is a black circle with a blue centre. The blue is Process Blue, the same shade used by the NFL's Panthers. The crest has the words 'Minted 2022' on the outer ring with 'Charlotte' at the top and 'Football Club' at the bottom. There is a white crown in the middle of the blue circle. The word 'minted' has a double meaning, highlighting both the team's founding and Charlotte's banking industry. The Charlotte Mint was the first US Mint branch, specialising in gold coins from 1835 until the US Civil War in 1861. The crown has four points, referencing the four wards of Charlotte, while the crown itself highlights the city's nickname of the Queen City.
The team kits for their debut season in 2022 have not yet been unveiled, but Ally Financial was announced in 2019 as a multi-year kit sponsor.
Tepper is a billionaire hedge-fund manager and businessman who bought the Panthers in 2018. He has a net worth of more than $12billion, making him the wealthiest owner in both the NFL and MLS. Before buying the Panthers, Tepper had held a minority ownership stake in his hometown Pittsburgh Steelers since 2009.
Charlotte have not yet hired their first manager, but they do have three senior members of staff on board.
Zoran Krneta was hired in December 2019 as sporting director. Krneta's global scouting network Star Sports & Entertainment has placed players in the MLS, Premier League, Serie A and La Liga, among other leagues.
In January 2020, the team hired Marc Nicholls as the club's technical director to run the youth academy system. Nicholls was the manager of the USL PDL side Carolina Dynamo (now NC Fusion U-23) from 2011 to 2015 and most recently the director of player development for the Seattle Sounders. Nicholls has twice been named the US Soccer Academy Coach of the Year.
In July 2020, Charlotte appointed Dan Lock as academy manager. Lock will work with youth organisations in Charlotte and the Carolinas after holding in a similar role with the Seattle Sounders. With the Sounders, he was the U-15 Academy Coach from 2018-20 after two years with Washington Youth Soccer.
The history of soccer in Charlotte
The Charlotte area has had professional soccer since the early 1980s, with the Carolina Lightnin' playing in the American Soccer League. They won the 1981 championship at American Legion Memorial Stadium in Charlotte with over 20,000 fans on hand. The ASL folded in 1983 and the Charlotte Gold played one season in the United Soccer League before folding.
The Charlotte Eagles formed in 1991 and joined the USL in 1993. The city expressed interest in hosting an inaugural MLS team in 1994 - with the Panthers starting as an NFL expansion team in 1995, the teams could have shared a stadium. After being passed over on the initial 10-team selection, Charlotte tried again in 1996 and 1998 but still failed to get an MLS team. The city was chosen to host the 2004 MLS SuperDraft at the Charlotte Convention Center but still wasn't successful in securing an MLS berth.
Meanwhile, the Eagles won the USL D-3 Pro League in 2000 and moved up to the USL A-League. They went back down a few years later and won the USL Second Division in 2005 while also reaching the third round of the US Open Cup. The Eagles made the USL final again in 2008 and 2009, before moving to the USL Pro in 2011. They reached the US Open Cup quarter-finals in 2012 but removed themselves from the USL and entered the amateur PDL in 2015. The Eagles won the PDL in 2017 and returned to USL League Two in 2019.
While Charlotte had yet to get an MLS team, the city was selected to host multiple international games at Bank of America Stadium. These included CONCACAF Gold Cup matches and International Champions Cup contests.
Charlotte gained another professional team in 2014 when Charlotte Independence joined the third division of the American soccer pyramid, purchasing the Eagles' USL Pro rights. The Independence reached the fifth round of the US Open Cup in 2015 and the third round in each of the next two years. They reached the USL Eastern Conference quarter-finals in 2016 and moved up to the second division of USL in 2017. They reached the Eastern Conference quarter-finals in 2017 before missing the play-offs in 2018 and 2019. The Independence played in the second-tier USL Championship in 2020, reaching the quarter-finals of the play-offs once more.
Charlotte join MLS
The Independence owners announced their goal of moving up to the MLS in 2016 while looking for a site on which to build a soccer-specific stadium. Elsewhere, Marcus Smith and the group at Charlotte Motor Speedway made a bid for an MLS team at the Memorial Stadium site. However, that plan was shot down by Charlotte City Council in January 2017. The bid was submitted to the MLS anyway, but Charlotte wasn't chosen for an expansion team.
When Tepper bought the Carolina Panthers in the summer of 2018, he expressed an interest in bringing an MLS team to Charlotte. The Panthers' new president, Tom Glick, had been the COO at Manchester City in England and had been involved in New York City FC's successful expansion bid in 2015. Glick took over the MLS bid for Tepper and league executives toured the Bank of America Stadium in July 2019. The City Council approved $110million in stadium and franchise funding in November 2019 and the team was officially announced on December 17, 2019.
Charlotte FC were supposed to debut in the MLS in the 2021 season, but on July 17, 2020, the league announced their debut would be delayed to 2022 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Charlotte FC's first players
Charlotte FC have already signed their first players, with Spanish midfielder Sergio Ruiz joining first on July 8, 2020. Ruiz was immediately loaned to Las Palmas in Spain for 18 months and will be back to debut with CLTFC in 2022. Ruiz has played in Spain since 2013, logging 37 games with Pontejos, 33 with Atletico Albericia, 26 with Racing B and 127 with Racing Santander before 2020. He scored 25 goals in those games and Ruiz will be 27 by the time he joins the MLS.
On October 5, 2020, Charlotte FC added midfielder Riley McGree from Australian team Adelaide United. McGree was then loaned to Birmingham City in the English Championship for the remainder of the 2020/21 season. McGree played for Adelaide United in the A-League from 2015-17 and again in 2019-20. He was signed by Belgium's Club Brugge in 2017 but spent two years on loan back in Australia, one with Newcastle Jets and one with Melbourne City. In 79 A-League games, he scored 23 goals, while adding four more in 21 cup or continental games. McGree will only be 23 years old when Charlotte FC play their first MLS game and he also has experience with both the Australia U-17 and U-23 national teams.
On December 18, 2020, CLTFC signed midfielder Brandt Bronico as a free agent. Bronico was selected 47th overall in the 2017 SuperDraft by the Chicago Fire after playing collegiately at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte. Bronico was the Conference USA Player of the Year and Golden Boot winner in 2016 in Charlotte. He played 66 MLS games with the Chicago Fire, starting 40 times. In those contests, he scored twice and added six assists. While in college, Bronico played for Nicholls for the Carolina Dynamo and had experience with the Seattle Sounders U-23 team in 2015.
Charlotte FC can continue to add players during the 2021 MLS season and they will participate in an Expansion Draft at the end of it. They will also make selections in the 2022 MLS SuperDraft.
Bank of America Stadium
Bank of America Stadium is located in uptown Charlotte and holds 75,523 fans for football. The stadium opened in 1996 for the Carolina Panthers' second NFL season. Bank of America Stadium is owned by the City of Charlotte and was originally named Ericsson Stadium before an agreement with Bank of America began in 2004. For FIFA events where sponsorships are not allowed, the stadium is known as Carolinas Stadium.
The stadium was renovated, work starting in 2014, and another round of renovations will take place before Charlotte FC begin to play there in 2022. Among the additions to accommodate soccer will be new locker rooms, a tunnel entrance and different camera positions to those of the NFL.
In addition to NFL games, BOA Stadium hosted college football's ACC Championship Game from 2010-15 and 2017-20. There has been a college football bowl game at the stadium every year since 2002, while the Belk Kickoff Game has been played at BOA since 2015.
International soccer matches have been played at BOA Stadium since 2010. The first was a friendly between Mexico and Iceland that drew 63,227 fans. Men's CONCACAF Gold Cup group stage games were played there in 2011, 2015 and 2019, while International Champions Cup encounters took place in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019.
The Liverpool vs AC Milan game in 2014 drew 69,364 fans, a record for soccer at the stadium. Other teams to play at BOA include Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich, Inter Milan, Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund. The US women's national team beat South Korea 2-0 in a friendly that drew 30,071 fans on October 3, 2019, at BOA Stadium too.
Charlotte FC's rivals
Since they are still a year away from taking to the field, Charlotte FC don't have any real rivals yet. However, they are widely expected to form rivalries with relatively new MLS sides Atlanta United and Nashville SC.
The Carolina Panthers have an in-division rivalry with the Atlanta Falcons and the three southern cities have multiple college football rivalries that pit fans from the Carolinas against fans from Tennessee and Georgia every week. Charlotte and Atlanta are separated by 250 miles, while Charlotte and Nashville are roughly 400 miles apart.