Announcement Tuesday the 17th? Let's go.
(Photo: James Willamor/Flickr)
by Johnny Wakefield
You might've seen the tweet Monday afternoon. A local reporter for WFAE announced that sources were telling him an MLS expansion announcement was coming this Friday, and the internet did what the internet does: It went a bit off the rails... at least, my corner of the internet did.
The reaction to the tweet, true or not, signified what some of us in the Charlotte soccer community have known for a long time now. This city, this region, loves its soccer, and it's ready to explode.
Let's get everyone caught up on the MLS expansion drama in the Mint City. (Yes, that's what we're calling it. Do you know how many Queen Cities there are?) In late 2014, the Charlotte Independence launched a USL team while talking about MLS hopes and dreams. In mid-2017, Marcus Smith put forth an expansion bid based on a renovated Memorial Stadium, while Steve Malik and North Carolina FC over in Raleigh launched a bid of their own.
But none of those players were able to generate the massive amount of interest, corporate and otherwise, that David Tepper has in his short time in charge of the Carolina Panthers. He mentioned bringing an MLS team to Charlotte in his first press conference in charge, and he hasn't stopped mentioning it since. He brought Tom Glick, a former Manchester City and City Football Group executive, over to be the Panthers team president. And, to be blunt, David Tepper has gobs of money: enough to be the wealthiest owner in the league by a large margin, and enough to pay for the MLS expansion fee (now rumored at over $300 million) out of his own pocket.
So was that all enough to bring Charlotte to the front of the line? It sure seems like it was: We're hearing reliable rumors that there's a rally coming to the Uptown Mint Museum sometime before Christmas.
But let's not forget that Charlotte has so much more than Tepper's billions. We're the rapidly growing financial hub of the south. We have a ton of kids' soccer clubs and adult rec leagues galore. We've hosted big soccer events, and we have a vibrant Uptown, a massive immigrant community, and plenty of transplants from around the country looking to make Charlotte their long-term home.
I experienced this feeling living in Seattle in 2008. I had just moved there, held my connections to my hometown Rams (RIP) and Cardinals, and just couldn't really connect with the Seahawks and Mariners as a result. But then MLS came to town. Seattle Sounders FC. I'd never had a soccer team before, and neither had thousands of others who'd recently moved to town, still wearing their hats from teams back home.
And then the Sounders put scarves all over Seattle. And people responded. Now they pack an NFL stadium 17 games a year (plus playoffs) and have a fanbase that receives international attention.
FC Charlotte, Charlotte SC, One Carolina United Athletic Club... whatever this team, Charlotte's team, might be called... this soccer club (and hopefully, this supporters group) could be our chance to unite all of our transplants, all of us seeking to make Charlotte our home, under a new banner. One that's ours, and yes, to be cheesy as hell, one that my daughters and I can cheer for for the rest of our lives.
It seems we'll find out more very, very soon. Join us y'all. It's time to strike.