Panthers, Tepper Stepping Up Pursuit of Charlotte MLS Expansion Squad

Bank of America Stadium

Under owner David Tepper, Carolina Panthers officials are stepping up the pursuit of an MLS expansion squad for Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium.

Charlotte has been steadily emerging as an expansion candidate, and now Tepper and his team president, Tom Glick, are explicitly advocating for an MLS team. In their vision, renovations would be made to Bank of America Stadium (above) to not only modernize fan amenities, but also to make the venue more conducive to hosting MLS on a full-time basis.

The potential for adding an MLS team to the fold could make the case for Bank of America Stadium renovations more enticing, though there are still many unknowns about how potential upgrades would take shape. Still, the Panthers believe that there is an appetite in Charlotte for MLS, arguing that the conditions are ripe for large crowds and strong revenue. More from the Charlotte Observer:

“We’re going to keep getting in front of them to show them the evidence and the proof points we’re discovering with our homework,” [Glick] said.

“Which is that a Major League Soccer club in Charlotte is going to be a big winner.”

Major League Soccer requires a stadium plan, along with other criteria such as corporate sponsorship commitments and community support, for all expansion candidates. The soccer-specific stadiums many MLS teams are either playing in or are building have the capacity for 20,000-30,000 fans.

Panthers executives believe Charlotte’s team could pack twice that amount into Bank of America Stadium for 20 MLS home games each season. According to the results of a recent survey sent to Panthers season-ticket holders, Charlotte’s MLS team could draw season-ticket sales in the low 30,000s, Glick said.

While MLS has traditionally shied away from shared NFL/MLS venues, there have been exceptions in instances where both teams were under the control of the same owner (Atlanta, New England, etc.), as would be the case with Tepper controlling both teams in Charlotte. The league has plenty to sort out regarding future expansion, however. Sacramento and St. Louis have been viewed as the leading candidates for teams 28 and 29, and no timeline has been announced yet for adding a 30th club. With other markets making serious plays for an MLS expansion team, the current expectation is that expansion is not going to stop at 30 teams, but instead proceed to 32 teams. Exactly where that would leave Charlotte remains to be seen, but its case could certainly be bolstered if Tepper and the Panthers can solidify a sound stadium renovation plan.

Image of Bank of America Stadium courtesy Carolina Panthers. 

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