I can’t believe this day has come.
For years, I never thought Charlotte would actually get a Major League Soccer team.
I was 17 years old when MLS played its inaugural season in 1996. At that age, soccer was everything. I was playing or practicing every single day. I bought L.A. Galaxy’s heinously amazing home and away jerseys because my favorite player, Cobi Jones was playing for them. I watched every MLS match I could, I recorded games and re-watched them like a psychopath. I bought magazines, hung posters on my wall, MLS was my universe.
As a naïve 17-year-old born and raised Southern, I dreamed that Charlotte would one day get a soccer team (and I would somehow play for them – which we now know was a nice little dream as I enter my 40s). However, as each season came and went, that dream faded. More and more teams were coming into the league, but North Carolina wasn’t even mentioned. Soccer in the South? Laughable, this is ACC & SEC Football country … the sentiment around soccer was that it wasn’t even a real sport.
But, as a young soccer addict, I continued to have hope. I would tell myself if Washington D.C. had a team, Charlotte could one day too. I felt that it was only a matter of time.
I got older and soccer started to take a back seat to things like paying bills, traveling, girlfriends … ya know … life. I basically, all but stopped watching MLS in 2002. That was until David Beckham came into the league in 2007 (he’s my second favorite player). I got excited again and followed a few seasons closely but, once more, my excitement faded around 2012. I was following Cobi Jones or David Beckham, and pulling for L.A., but I could never buy all the way in. They were on the West Coast. L.A. couldn’t be my team. I felt like all the bandwagon fans out there that pull for teams like the Patriots and Yankees, just because they are good. I hate those assholes. Pain is loving your team regardless of winning or losing seasons (just ask a Browns fan). There was D.C. United, the closest thing to home, yet it was still so far away (6 +hours). I just didn’t have my team to love and agonize over.
Granted, I continued to fill my love for soccer following the U.S. Men’s and Women’s National teams, and my beloved Arsenal, but I had nothing at home to get excited about or get behind.
Then, Atlanta got a team! Ok MLS, now you have my attention again. A soccer team in the South? Atlanta? That’s sort of close, right? Still 4 hours away, but maybe they could be my team. A true Southern team. At that point, I had completely given up on North Carolina ever getting a franchise.
The excitement, attendance and the early success of Atlanta United were astounding. My wife and I went to Bobby Dodd Stadium in their inaugural year before they moved into the ridiculously amazing Mercedes Benz Stadium. Bobby Dodd was packed and raucous, the game was amazing, the overall experience was exhilarating. I got some Atlanta United gear and began watching all of their games. I was hooked again.
In 2016-2017 there started to be some rumblings of Charlotte putting in a bid for a team from Marcus Smith. Could it be? Could it happen? Would the city of Charlotte help put up money for it? After weeks of wild speculation and news articles giving vague statements and updates, the answer was ultimately no, and the bid didn’t go off. It just seemed destined that we wouldn’t get a team. I again lost hope.
Then, some Billionaire named David Tepper bought the Carolina Panthers for $2.2 billion.
Suddenly, there was a man on the scene with very fat pockets and the willingness to make shit happen. In a world where money talks, David Tepper had a goddamn megaphone.
I was so tired of all the talk and the bickering, and the debating about getting a team in the past. But now, here was someone that had that “fuck you” money, the type of money that makes things move quickly. The type of money that can bypass petty nonsense. He was willing to pony up $325 million for the MLS franchise fee. We were off and running. My dream resurfaced with a vengeance.
Tepper is set to invest a total of $425 million toward the franchise. This includes the cost of the expansion fee, player salaries, paying the coaching staff etc. The city of Charlotte has even committed $110 million in city funding toward renovations that would make Bank of America Stadium suitable for soccer matches. Also, some of that money will go towards turning the property where the old Eastland Mall used to be on Central Avenue into the team’s headquarters, practice facility and community fields.
Things moved pretty quickly, but I still didn’t believe it until the actual announcement. I just couldn’t allow myself to be let down once more. I assumed it wouldn’t go through or another city would beat us out. But, we did it. It really fucking happened. You can watch the full video announcement here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5trF9B-Tg4
I feel like a teenager again with the excitement I once had. I immediately went in halfers with a friend for season tickets. I joined the Mint City Collective ( a supporters group) https://mintcitycollective.com
I am pumped, I am ready.
This will be such an amazing thing for the city. I’m so excited that the old Eastland Mall location is getting the headquarters. Right now, the lot is a dilapidated eye-sore on a side of town that could use some love.
There will be a lot of updates ahead. We have this year to get so much accomplished to be ready in March 2021. I’m so giddy, I can’t believe this is a thing.
I’m having a hard time properly putting into words how I feel, but I’ve tried to here. We are very fortunate to get a team, we are very fortunate that we have an owner that stepped up and made this happen. For good or ill, this is my fucking team now and it’s going to be awesome!
Thanks for reading!
“The awarding of an expansion team for Charlotte by Major League Soccer is a proud moment and significant for Charlotte and everyone in our community. “I’ve made clear for a long time that I have two goals as a team owner: sustained winning on the field and making a difference in the community. These will be our goals with Charlotte’s MLS team, and the work begins today.” -David Tepper