MLS Insider: Tom Bogert

Charlotte FC seek playmaking Designated Player in summer transfer window

Charlotte FC remain intent on making a significant addition to their inaugural roster build this summer, as has been the plan from the beginning.

The club were deliberate in not committing all roster resources before their MLS debut, an approach similar to Nashville SC and Austin FC in expansion years past.

Now they'll aim to add an attacking midfielder with their last Designated Player spot. Talks are ongoing ahead of the Secondary Transfer Window opening on July 7.

“I don’t want to commit to whether it’ll happen in the summer, which is our aim, or January simply because the business of transfers is unpredictable,” sporting director Zoran Krneta told media on a virtual press conference. “We’re looking to add an attacking midfielder as a third DP, that’s our aim. But it’s something we’re careful about how we go about. We have targets, we’re talking to targets.”

With the current makeup of the roster, including two U22 Initiative slots in use and two senior DPs (Karol Swiderski and Kamil Jozwiak), the final DP will be a Young DP, allowing them to use all three U22 Initiative slots. MLS teams can use three U22 Initiative slots so long as all three DP spots aren't filled with senior players making above the max budget charge.

Jordy Alcivar is currently classified as a Young DP, but that was just for cap maneuvering. The plan has been for Alcivar to be bought down in the summer to free up a DP spot when a deal was ready. Jozwiak can be bought down in the future as well.

Sources told all offseason and into the beginning of the 2022 campaign that Charlotte valued flexibility and didn’t want to overcommit before seeing what the team looked like under manager Miguel Angel Ramirez. They wanted to identify where best to allocate final resources.

Since opening day through the close of the Primary Transfer Window, Charlotte added five players, underpinning the fluid nature of the roster build. Of the five there were some significant signings, including Jozwiak, former MLS Rookie of the Year Andre Shinyashiki and U22 Initiative winger Kerwin Vargas.

“You don’t know who you really have until you start playing, you don’t really know what players can give you until you see them playing for you week after week,” Krneta said. “Now, we’ve got a better picture about who is who, who can give us what and how we can improve."

Charlotte will have more flexibility with international players as well. Defender Anton Walkes received his green card and midfielder Sergio Ruiz is expected to soon as well, freeing up two international slots.

The DP search might be all Charlotte focus on this summer. With Jozwiak and Vargas getting settled into the team, as well as U22 Initiative forward Vinicius Mello, who is yet to make his debut due to injury, there should be plenty of options for Ramirez and his staff. Charlotte hope to keep the current group together as well.

“We have a large squad already and players coming back from injury. It depends on the movement, the market is unpredictable," Krneta said. "We have players attracting interest from Europe, but I’d like to keep the entire squad. No one is for sale, but you never know.”

Many neutrals around the league were worried about Charlotte’s readiness as the season began, but after a dozen games, the club have picked up a respectable 13 points and are two points below the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs line in the Eastern Conference.

“Our season has gone well, I’m proud of the players,” Krneta said. "We’ve said since the beginning our aim is to be competitive in year one. There are a lot of positives to take but of course there is a lot of room for improvement. The coaching staff is addressing that, the front office is looking at where else we can improve not just in the summer but next year.”

“The table never lies, we are where we should be,” Krneta added.

After the push to add upwards of 25-30 players in 2022, Charlotte aim for continuity next year. Krneta pointed to the successful expansion builds in previous years keeping most of the squad for year two.

“We want to build on this team,” Krneta said. “We’ll change, we’ll add. Some players will leave, some will come, but maybe five or six maximum.”

Chelsea coming to town

In the interim, outside of MLS, Charlotte will welcome 2021 UEFA Champions League winners Chelsea to Bank of America Stadium for a friendly on July 20.

Chelsea are currently third in the Premier League, advancing to the quarterfinals of the Champions League and the FA Cup final this year.

“We always want to bring the best talent to Charlotte and to the Carolinas,” Krneta said. “We thought it’d be great to our fans, our loyal fans who show up to every game, to experience Charlotte FC play against one of Europe’s truly great teams.”

Chelsea feature the likes of American superstar Christian Pulisic, Belgium talisman Romelu Lukaku, German internationals Kai Haveretz and Timo Werner as well as English national team stars Mason Mount, Reece James and more.

“This team is built to win, they’ll try to win against whoever they play,” Krneta said. “Of course they’ll respect Chelsea, but it should be a good game of soccer.”