CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In 13 months, Charlottle's MLS franchise will report for preseason ahead of their inaugural season.
There's a lot of work to be done between now and then.
The league's 30th franchise, made official on Tuesday on a rainy Charlotte afternoon, will join MLS in 2021. Particularly for a group without a lower-division soccer side already in place and the infrastructure that brings, Charlotte will not only have to fill out their first team, but key front office staff members. Behind that, there's the business side with partnerships and the like, as well as community outreach to ensure the city is ready to support their new franchise.
Charlotte are looking at it as a boon rather than a hindrance.
“It’s coming up quickly, it’s faster and sooner than Sacramento and St. Louis — but I think that’s a great thing," Carolina Panthers president Tom Glick told MLSsoccer.com. "We look at this as a huge opportunity for our fans, city and region. They don’t have to wait."
Glick also isn't worried about the short ramp time on the competitive side, noting the club got to work ahead of time on processes to identify key soccer operations hires.
“In terms of us building the club and all of the things we need to do, we’re ready, there’s enough time," he said. "We’ve been anticipating we might be asked to play in 2021 so we’re well organized on the sporting side. We’ve been working for many weeks on the key positions in soccer operations — sporting director, chief scout, head of recruitment, head of youth academy.
"In the coming weeks we’ll be able to announce who some of those people are who will be joining us who will help assemble and organize the squad,” Glick added.
MLS Charlotte owner David Tepper struck a similarly optimistic tune.
“From the business side, I’m confident we can get everything done more or less in time," Tepper told reporters. "I don’t want to rush things and have them not good as far as the stadium is concerned. On the sporting side, we’re meeting all the time. We’re going to be fast trying to get that done. Not too fast to not be careful, to get the right people in. I want to win MLS Cup. We’ll have everything in place by the time we play, but we understand things are a process.”
Behind all that, the club still needs to select a name, color scheme, badge and jerseys.
“We’ll build this together with our fans," Glick said. "We’ll have a naming exercise, colors, a badge and introduction of our kits. Our fans will contribute to all this, these will be fun moments to share with our fans.”
Fun moments indeed, which got started at the official announcement. Tepper opened his remarks at the event by asking supporters if they're ready to party and closed them in a similar fashion, and not without a detour to take a jab at nearby Atlanta United.
Once the room largely cleared, Tepper returned to the stage in front of an empty audience. He grabbed an official MLS match ball, intended to be used as a prop for pictures, but he couldn't resist. He kicked his shoes off and blasted a punt that sent the ball ricocheting off the wall.
The charismatic and competitive new owner is clearly ready for 2021, just as he expects his team will be.