Charlotte FC. Get used to it.
The Charlotte MLS expansion club revealed its club name, crest and colors as part of a highly-anticipated brand launch. The club, which will now join MLS in 2022 instead of the original date of 2021, has taken one more big step in its expansion path from bid to MLS debut.
“For us to be targeting them, they’ve been a great organization," club president Tom Glick told reporters on a video conference call. "We’re going to have to knock them off of their perch. We’ll be aiming to do that.”
Atlanta struggled at the MLS is Back Tournament, but they have been one of the gold standards for other expansion clubs. They entered the league in 2017 with great success both on the field and off, with Mercedes-Benz Stadium regularly selling out. Then, they won MLS Cup in their second year of existence.
Ever ambitious, Charlotte are not only aiming for that target, but they are looking to surpass their Southern rivals.
Name and crest are revealed... Now what?
While they would have had a very short runway to get ready for a 2021 launch, Charlotte FC relished that challenge and were well on their way to being ready. The front office foundation is in place, led by sporting director Zoran Krneta and Marc Nicholls as technical director.
They also have their first-ever signing secured—midfielder Sergio Ruiz—and are promising more soon. The MLS secondary transfer window opens on August 12, after the conclusion of the MLS is Back Tournament.
“We want to be ready to hit the ground running on the [12th]" Glick said. "There’s work going on right now on a number of targets.”
The club's updated 2022 timeline ostensibly puts the future of the club's first-ever signing Ruiz up in the air, but the club has a plan for him and any new signings.
In the case of Ruiz, a 25-year-old central midfielder signed earlier this month from Spanish second division side Racing Santander, Charlotte have no concerns about getting him game time elsewhere. The Spanish side was one of about a half-dozen seriously interested in signing Ruiz earlier this year. However, due to the pandemic-related financial challenges being felt across the world, most teams were unable to afford Ruiz's price tag, allowing Charlotte to complete the deal.
Those clubs, and more, are interested in taking Ruiz on loan until Charlotte enter MLS in 2022.
“We pounced on that opportunity," Glick said. "Now we have more than a dozen clubs that want him on loan. We’re going to have some choices.”
The same formula will apply to any players signed in August.
As Krneta and his team are focused on talent acquisition, academy manager Dan Lock remains on course for integrating the first wave of young talents into the club's youth system. Charlotte's oldest age group, the Under-17s, start training this weekend.
“Our youth academy will be producing talent for us, it’s a really rich area for talent," Glick said. "There’s a huge pipeline of talent. We’re taking the best young players into our academy.”
New timeline for a head coach
While player acquisition and the academy rollout won't be impacted by the one-season delay in joining MLS, the coaching search will be. Charlotte have held talks with potential candidates and were hoping to make a hire in the near future, but will be pushing that back a year.
“It’s most likely that we will wait until next summer," Glick said. "Each of these managers would like to continue coaching during the 2021 season. That should probably suit us well."
Glick added: “There are a huge number of great managers—established household names and talented up-and-comers—that want to come to Major League Soccer and Charlotte.”
With 25 more players to add, a coaching staff to be put in place, jerseys to be created, tickets to be sold and much more to come, the next 18 months before their first-ever MLS match will go fast.
Maybe it'll be against the rivals they're chasing.
"I think one of the great sporting events of 2022 will be the first time Atlanta United comes into Bank of America Stadium and we lock horns with a sellout crowd," Glick said. "That’ll be a special night, the first of many.”