CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A little rain was never likely to dampen the mood in Charlotte on Tuesday.
Just a few hours prior, Christmas came early when Charlotte was officially awarded MLS's 30th franchise. And now, as team owner David Tepper decreed to his city, it was time to party.
“Charlotte, you ready to party? We’re going to have one big party all season long,” Tepper declared on a stage earlier in the day alongside MLS commissioner Don Garber and Charlotte mayor Vi Lyles.
So in a tight downtown alleyway lined with bars, under a light North Carolina rain on a 60-degree day, some of the 2021 expansion side's most ardent supporters did exactly that.
They take declarations from Tepper seriously. And Tepper practiced what he preached.
All of a sudden, the billionaire owner who delivered MLS to Charlotte walked through that alleyway. His presence was all the invitation the supporters needed to begin chanting his name.
"He does what he wants, he does what he wants, David Tepper, he does what he wants!"
A big smile flashed over Tepper's face as he raised an arm to the crowd. It was indicative of the day, in which night seemed to come early. It was five o'clock somewhere long before it was five o'clock in Charlotte on this otherwise mundane Tuesday.
“It’s fulfillment," supporter Jeff Walker told MLSsoccer.com from the fan event. "David Tepper came in and said what he wanted to do, then he did it. For him to bring it fruition in less than two years is insane. It’s fulfillment."
After a couple of hours at the first celebration, the supporters boarded a handful of buses from downtown Charlotte to the next location, the official fan event. The party kept rolling on. Tepper, of course, would meet them there.
The Carolinas are a great place for soccer and Charlotte is no exception. The fans on hand were ecstatic that MLS will be coming to their city. A supporter group called Mint City Collective had already been set up, with fans boasting jerseys with "Day 0" written on the back. They've long been ready and now want to use their new club to further unite the diverse city behind a common cause.
“This sport always bring people together," said Mint City's Johnny Wakefield. "It’s a Southern hospitality city. Since I moved here, people have been nice to me, even though I’m not from here. It’s a very accepting, culturally diverse city. Everybody comes together for the betterment of the city. For [Mint City Collective], we come from all different areas to come together for the love of the game and the love of the city.”