By Jonathan Lee
January 16, 2022
When David Tepper bought the Carolina Panthers in the summer of 2018, he openly spoke of his desire to bring a Major League Soccer team to the Queen City. Sixteen months and a record $325 million dollar expansion fee later, Charlotte FC was born.
Fast forward to late summer 2021, when Charlotte Football Club President Nick Kelly sat in front of a room of sports business professionals in Uptown Charlotte and lamented that every day was a day closer to the first Major League Soccer match in Charlotte history: “We’re losing days.” At that point, the team had only a crest (team logo), a few players under contract, and five months to go before they would take the field as MLS’s 28th franchise.
Kelly, working with his business staff, and sporting director Zoran Krneta, on the talent acquisition side, were tasked with building out an entire franchise operation. They’ve met time crunches and unseen challenges head on with a rapid succession of player announcements, social media videos, and community events.
Here is where the club stands today and what’s ahead:
Now weeks away from debuting, Charlotte FC is close to filling out the club’s first-team roster. With a focus on an attacking style of play favored by Head Coach Miguel Angel Ramirez, the team has dotted the roster with an international mix of players hailing from 13 different countries, including the United States. The team signed Spanish midfielder Sergio Ruiz as its first ever on-field signee in July 2020. Since then, the club added players through the expansion draft, free agency and trades, ranging in age from 19-year-old Brazilian striker Vinicius Silveira de Mello to grizzled English Premier League veteran and Austrian native Christian Fuchs, who is 35 years old and the club’s highest profile signing.
— Charlotte FC (@CharlotteFC) December 13, 2021
Charlotte FC also has some local flavor. The club recently completed a trade to bring defender Jaylin Lindsey home to Charlotte. Lindsey grew up playing in Charlotte’s youth soccer leagues before moving on to academy play for Sporting Kansas City in 2015. Charlotte FC also made a trade with the Chicago Fire to bring Brandt Bronico back to town, who played his college soccer at UNC Charlotte.
The supporter section, which occupies the east end of Bank of America Stadium, is for diehard fans who never sit during game action. Unlike other sports that use cues from pre-recorded prompts, the supporter section is the heartbeat of any soccer teams’ home atmosphere, with constant cheering, singing, flag waving and drumming. It’s up to the remaining fans to match their energy. For Charlotte FC, the club has currently partnered with nine supporter’s groups.
The Kits and Official Gear
One of the most anticipated reveals for the fanbase is what the players will be wearing during competition. The uniforms, or kits in soccer parlance, quickly become the team’s identity. Charlotte FC had a party to reveal their kits, with players modeling the new threads to rousing cheers from season ticket holders. Official team apparel is available at the team store at Bank of America Stadium, MLSStore.com, and locally at retailers like Dick’s Sporting Goods.
The MLS kicks off the 27th season of action with an altered schedule, due to the 2022 World Cup beginning in late November. The World Cup is traditionally a summer tournament, but it is being moved because of scorching weather conditions in the host country of Qatar. Charlotte FC will compete in 34 matches over the course of the 2022 season, 17 at home and 17 on the road.
Charlotte FC is scheduled to start the season February 26 on the road against one of the original ten MLS franchises, DC United. The club will make their home debut on March 5 against another original MLS franchise, the LA Galaxy. For the first home match, the club has set a goal of breaking the MLS regular-season attendance record, which currently stands at 72,548 for the LA Galaxy at Atlanta United match in 2019.
— Charlotte FC (@CharlotteFC) December 15, 2021
It’s an ambitious goal, especially with a Charlotte Hornets home game the same night and the final game of legendary Duke Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who will be playing against their arch-rival, Tar Heels.
Charlotte FC just completed their first ever MLS SuperDraft. The club made three picks, all with some connection to the Carolinas. In the draft selection, Charlotte FC took University of Maryland first team All-American midfielder Ben Bender. Bender’s brother Jacob played professionally here in Charlotte in 2017 in the USL with Charlotte Independence. Bender was drafted as a Generation Adidas player, a program that incentivizes college players who have professional-level talent to stay in America and play for Major League Soccer.
Looking forward to having Ben play for us in the QC! 👑 pic.twitter.com/mX1Ye1Hoif
— Charlotte FC (@CharlotteFC) January 11, 2022
In the second round, Charlotte picked forward Kyle Holcomb, who played college soccer at Wake Forest. In the third round, Charlotte FC selected goalkeeper George Marks, who started for the 2021 National Champion Clemson Tigers soccer team and recorded a shutout in the championship game.
The club has announced an ambitious preseason schedule, broken into three locations. The team will leave Charlotte January 16 and hold a nine-day training camp at Clemson University before moving to the prestigious IMG Sports Academy in Bradenton, FL to train and play in preseason friendly matches behind closed doors starting January 28. They will wrap up the preseason by playing in the Carolina Challenge Cup in Charleston, SC at Patriot’s Point in the shadow of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. Here, they will contest three matches: February 12 vs. the hometown Charleston Battery, February 15 vs. the Columbus Crew, and February 19 against Inter Miami.
Preseason begins on Jan. 16!
See the full schedule here ⤵️https://t.co/lWWopcc2aM
— Charlotte FC (@CharlotteFC) January 13, 2022
Charlotte FC will kick off their inaugural season on the road in Washington DC vs. DC United February 26. They return home to play the highly anticipated opening match at Bank of America Stadium on March 5 against the LA Galaxy. The schedule jumps into high gear when the club travels down Interstate 85 to play regional rivals, the Atlanta United on March 13 at 4:30 p.m. Atlanta makes their first trip to the Queen City on April 9 at 3 p.m.
Other schedule highlights include a Memorial Day weekend trip to the Pacific Northwest to play one of Major League Soccer’s glamor teams, the Seattle Sounders. Austin (TX) FC brings their incredible supporter groups to Bank of America Stadium on June 30 at 7pm. August brings a tough four-day cross country stretch. Charlotte takes to the road to play at LAFC, then four days later in New York City to play NYCFC. The club finishes the home portion of the schedule October 1 vs. Philadelphia.
Where to Watch
Charlotte FC will be featured on National TV a number of times this season. The home opener is on FOX March 5. Both Atlanta matchups (home on FS1, road on ESPN), at Seattle on FS1 on May 29, and home vs. the NY Red Bulls on ABC June 11 and vs. Nashville July 9 on FS1. It was important for the club to be seen locally, so they partnered with WSOC-TV to show the remaining 26 matches on channels 9, 64, and in Spanish on Telemundo.
In this article
- CLTure Sports
- bank of america stadium
- Ben Bender
- Carolina Hooliganz
- Charleston Battery
- Charlotte FC
- Christian Fuchs
- Columbus Crew
- David Tepper
- Forty Thieves
- Generation Adidas
- George Marks
- Jacob Bender
- Kyle Holcomb
- LA Galaxy
- Major League Soccer
- Mint City Collective
- Mint St. Mafia
- QC Royals
- queen city
- Southbound & Crown
- television schedule
- The Queens Firm
- Uptown Ultras
- Vinicius Silveira de Mello
- Zoran Krneta