Executive leadership at Charlotte FC went out on a ledge many months ago, even before single-game tickets were being sold: They proclaimed the desire for Charlotte FC to set a new single-game record for most attendance in MLS history in their very first home game.
Talk about swinging for the fences. It led to some sleepless nights, Charlotte FC president turned Tepper Sports CEO Nick Kelly admitted.
But the city, the state and the region showed up. As of Thursday, Charlotte officially sold more than 73,500 tickets for Saturday's inaugural home match against the LA Galaxy (7:30 pm ET | FOX, FOX Deportes), as they still hope to get a sell-out, which is just under 75,000 at Bank of America Stadium. At 73,500, they will set a new record.
“[It feels] amazing," head coach Miguel Angel Ramirez told media at a press conference Thursday. "It’s the first time I'll have this amount of people behind me, behind us."
The previous record is held by Atlanta United at just over 73,000 for MLS Cup in 2018. Atlanta dominates the top 10 single-game attendance list.
"The players are really looking forward [to the game] and are super motivated," Ramirez said. "These aren’t just words, these are facts. We’re working a lot. A lot, a lot. Early in the morning until late evening. We were here for 12 hours yesterday. Nobody knows, but we want the people feeling proud so we’re doing our best. We’re working a lot for Saturday because we want this amount of people, not just this week but every single game.”
Charlotte's MLS debut was a 3-0 loss at D.C. United, though the scoreline doesn't quite tell the full story. CLT FC had an opening goal chalked off after Video Review before D.C. United were awarded a penalty kick to open the scoring, a decision that came after midfielder Brandt Broncio's handball.
The club's inaugural starting XI probably won't look much like the final product soon, even before further signings inevitably arrive between now and the summer. The club essentially had no natural center forwards to choose from, with Designated Player Karol Swiderski unavailable, U22 Initiative signing Vinicius Mello still out with an injury and Daniel Rios only acquired via a trade from Nashville SC less than 48 hours before kickoff.
Ramirez says Swiderski will be available Saturday and Rios has had at least a few days to familiarize himself with his teammates and the tactics.
"At least having a striker changes your game plan," Ramirez said. "Now I don't need another player not in his position. Having Rios one week more, we had time to sit down together to explain the game model and philosophy. So now we have two strikers."
With the team being brand new, and still not complete in a roster-building sense, they certainly don't figure to be peaking at the beginning of the season. Ramirez has previously boasted that his game model is complex, and given the lack of familiarity between new teammates that is natural for an expansion team at the start of the season, they're still working towards mastering the tactics and philosophy.
That said, Ramirez believes they've made great strides on that front.
"In preseason we established basic positioning of play," Ramirez said. "In the first week, it was stressful. The movements, the patterns, decisions. Now? They do it like that," as he snapped his fingers for effect. "They're not panicking under pressure. There's one thing to be pressed but it's another thing to feel under pressure."
It will be easy to get swept up in the spectacle, though. Maybe those patterns and movements won't come naturally with up to 75,000 people screaming down.
"It will be difficult," Ramirez admitted when asked how to balance the event with the actual game. "We need to learn how to cope with this. Emotionally first, to control our emotions, and be focused on the game. That's all we need to do."