Major League Soccer is coming to Charlotte.
Charlotte has been awarded an MLS expansion team, the league's 30th, and the club is set to begin play in 2021 out of Bank of America Stadium in downtown Charlotte. The expansion bid was led by billionaire David Tepper, owner of the Carolina Panthers.
“We are thrilled to welcome Charlotte as Major League Soccer’s 30th club,” Commissioner Don Garber said in a league statement. “During the last two decades, Charlotte has experienced enormous energy and growth, which matches soccer’s explosive rise in popularity in the United States. We are pleased to add David Tepper to our ownership group and look forward to working with him and his entire organization to launch Major League Soccer in the Carolinas in 2021.”
Tepper, a charismatic businessman who founded the global hedge fund Appaloosa Management, worked tirelessly over the last year to bring MLS to Charlotte. In 2018 he became the owner of the Carolina Panthers, after previously owning a 5 percent stake in the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“The awarding of an expansion team for Charlotte by Major League Soccer is a proud moment and significant for Charlotte and everyone in our community,” Tepper said. “I’ve made clear for a long time that I have two goals as a team owner: sustained winning on the field and making a difference in the community. These will be our goals with Charlotte’s MLS team, and the work begins today.”
Appetite for soccer
David Tepper (center) celebrates with fans in Charlotte
Charlotte has hosted numerous soccer events in recent years, routinely drawing large crowds at Bank of America Stadium.
More than 69,000 fans watched Liverpool vs. AC Milan in 2014, and 61,000 attended a PSG-Chelsea game in 2015. A Concacaf Gold Cup doubleheader at Bank of America Stadium in June this year drew nearly 60,000 fans for games featuring Mexico, Canada, Cuba and Martinique. The Mexico national team will play a match there in 2020.
The Carolinas have also been a popular location for youth soccer tournaments and was chosen as the site of the 2019 adidas MLS College Showcase. Two-time defending NWSL champions North Carolina Courage have had great success in the market as well.
MLS will have 26 teams competing in 2020, with the inaugural seasons of Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC. In 2021 Austin FC and Charlotte will follow, before Sacramento Republic FC and St. Louis follow in 2022 to bring the league to 30 teams.