Charlotte FC, the newest Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise, have made only their second ever signing with the capture of Australian goalscoring midfielder Riley McGree from Adelaide United. The 21-year-old, who was named Young Player of the Year for the 2019/20 A-League season, is one of the hottest prospects down under and will add genuine firepower to the new Charlotte FC offense.
Of course, with Charlotte FC not due to play competitively in the MLS until the 2022 season and still ironing out things like logos and team nicknames, the franchise took the immediate decision to loan McGree out. McGree joined EFL Championship side Birmingham City on a season-long loan. Zoran Krneta, sporting director of Charlotte FC, believes a period of time in English soccer will “help Riley get to the top of his game” to hit the ground running in 2022.
McGree’s short-term switch to the EFL Championship will provide him with much-needed exposure and a chance to play in the sport’s most competitive second tier on the planet. Ordinarily, the coverage and attendances of the Championship beats many top divisions across Europe and some of the leading regulated sports betting brands in the US are also starting to offer markets to fans of English soccer in North America.
It’s still unclear as to what ambitions Birmingham City have for the upcoming season. With just six points from their opening six games, the Blues could become embroiled in another relegation dogfight like last season when the survived by the skin of their teeth. From a purely selfish point of view, Charlotte FC fans will just be pleased to see McGree playing competitive football, regardless of whether it’s a promotion push or a relegation battle.
Riley McGree’s career to date
It all started out for McGree in the academy team of Adelaide United. Four years ago, McGree was able to break into the senior squad and the following campaign he featured 22 times as an 18-year-old, scoring twice from midfield too. Such was his impact on the A-League that European scouts were already sniffing around him. Belgian side Club Brugge took the first step to bring him to Europe in 2017 – a side that regularly qualify for the UEFA Champions League.
However, McGree was loaned back to A-League sides Newcastle Jets and Melbourne City to further aid his development. It was during his time with the Jets that he would be catapulted onto the global soccer stage after scoring five goals in 12 games. He was part of a Newcastle team that reached the A-League semifinals. It was during this game that he would go on to score the most outrageous scorpion kick goal – one which would secure him a nomination for the Puskas Award.
McGree secured another loan switch to Melbourne City the following season, scoring another eight goals in 30 appearances. A midfielder averaging a goal every three games is worth their weight in gold. But despite his rapid development in the A-League, McGree failed to break through into the Club Brugge senior setup and was subsequently sold back to his former employers Adelaide United on a three-year contract.
McGree has already started to receive international recognition with the Australian national setup. He has appeared nine times for the Socceroos’ U23 squad and has been a part of the senior side back in 2017. Former Socceroos goalkeeper Mark Bosnich also marked McGree as a star of the future for the national team. However, like Bosnich, McGree was always going to need to venture overseas to further his career and the move to Charlotte FC was always going to happen.
McGree has waxed lyrical about becoming “part of something special” with the MLS’ newest expansion franchise and the Australian will certainly be keeping a keen eye on who else his new employers sign in the coming months, with plenty more signings required to fill the roster. Only McGree and Spaniard Sergio Ruiz are contracted to Charlotte FC at present, but there is still plenty of time until the real action begins in 2022.