With Sacramento and St. Louis virtually assured of landing the next two MLS expansion teams, the jockeying is on for team #30–and Charlotte is most definitely in the mix.
As we’ve repeatedly noted in the past, Charlotte is definitely in the mix to land an expansion team: our latest estimates on MLS expansion put Charlotte high on the list. The advantage to Charlotte from a purely logistical viewpoint: Bank of America Stadium updates can be made with MLS soccer in mind, with a renovated facility ready for use by both the NFL and an MLS expansion team. MLS has shied away from NFL/MLS situations unless both teams were under control of the same owner (Atlanta, Boston, etc.), but with a deep-pocketed owner like David Tepper, the point ownership is seen as a plus by many in the league.
So we know that St. Louis and Sacramento are the only markets under consideration for teams #28 and #29, and we know that some sort of announcement on MLS expansion could happen at July’s All-Star break. With other markets making serious plays for an MLS expansion team, the current expectation is that expansion won’t end at #30, but instead proceed to 32 teams. And you expect Charlotte to be a big part of that discussion, with team officials quietly stepping up communications with MLS:
“David is a highly-engaged and committed owner in the NFL, and he is excited about soccer,” [Panthers team president Tom] Glick told SI.com. “He’s convinced and sees that MLS is not only needed here, but the market is ready for it and it’ll be highly successful.”
And so over the past year-plus, quietly—apart from the press conference shoutouts—Tepper, Glick and their colleagues have been laying the groundwork for an MLS expansion bid. In February, league officials took their first tour of Bank of America Stadium. Panthers representatives have made multiple trips to New York City to meet with commissioner Don Garber and others.
“We’ve had a lot of engagement already,” Glick said. “We’ve been consulting with them and doing our homework here, and we’re now in a position to say that this is going to work incredibly well and we can play earlier or later to best suit their needs. We’ll be meeting with the commissioner and perhaps the expansion committee very soon.”
Image of Bank of America Stadium courtesy Carolina Panthers.
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