When they begin to play in 2022, Charlotte FC (a franchise owned by David Tepper) will be the first MLS team in the Carolinas. The news was exciting for soccer fans in Charlotte – even more so than playing online keno – and with a potential to play in front of 40,000 fans at the Bank of America stadium, joining Charlotte is an attractive proposition for many soccer players.
Who created Charlotte’s new MLS team…and who’s in charge?
Charlotte FC were created soon after self-made billionaire David Tepper bought the Carolina Panthers NFL team in 2018. He hired Tom Glick from Manchester City FC in the UK as the new team president, but also tasked him with looking into a potential MLS franchise deal for a team in the Carolinas.
There were already a few lower level soccer teams in North and South Carolina, but none had the potential to necessarily become a professional MLS side. However, there was clear soccer potential in Charlotte due to the popularity of the sport in the area and the Bank of America Stadium’s suitability for hosting soccer matches – it had already done so on a number of occasions.
Between July 2019 and July 2020, Tepper secured funding for the project from the Charlotte City Council and financed redevelopment for the Bank of America Stadium to become soccer friendly. An expansion fee of $325 million was the reported figure that Tepper had to part with in order to finalise the deal. Charlotte FC were officially announced as the expansion team in December 2019.
At this moment in time, the team do not have a head coach, and only have the one player – Sergio Ruiz who signed from Racing Santander in July 2020. The team were supposed to begin playing in 2021, but this has been pushed back to 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Looking to the future: the academy, transfers, and coaches
The new Charlotte team has been quick to establish an academy side for the club, with Dan Lock appointed as the Academy Manager in late February of this year. Sporting Director Zoran Krneta has already spoken of his intentions to pump the first team full of young, American talent, and with Lock’s experience both in the MLS and abroad in England with the FA, Charlotte’s future soccer scene looks bright.
One of the biggest decisions that Krneta and Tepper will have to make is the head coach appointment. The Sporting Director has already made it clear that the club want a head coach, rather than a manager, and that the ideal candidate needs to be ‘attacking oriented, and possibly very pressing oriented’.
The club have a shortlist of coaches they’re considering for the position, and are reportedly pleased with the candidates that they’ve whittled it down to. Earlier in the year, ex Atlanta-United boss Tata Martino tipped Charlotte to look at US boss Gregg Berhalter, and the coach of Sporting Kansas City, Peter Vermes, but it is unclear whether either of these candidates were contacted.
Soccer fans in the Carolinas will have to wait until 2021 to see a professional MLS team play locally. However, Charlotte FC is an exciting project, and could be the next big thing in the MLS…