Charlotte Independence debates move to USL League One

With changes in the ownership suite and a new home, Charlotte Independence management is looking at a self-delegation from USL Championship to USL League One.

This has certainly been a year of change for the Independence, which has played at a variety of venues before moving this season to the revamped $40.5 million American Legion Memorial Stadium (shown above). That’s a significant upgrade to be in a facility designed for soccer. But that’s only part of the change: Dan DiMicco is selling his majority stake in the USL Championship team after a public uproar and objections by a supporter group over comments he made in the wake of the George Floyd killing in Minneapolis, as well as blaming Antifa and George Soros for societal ills. In the face of those objections, he chose to sell his stake in the team.

And the Independence faces an existential threat with the arrival of a Charlotte MLS team owned by Carolina Panthers (NFL) owner David Tepper. It’s hard for a USL Championship team to compete with an MLS team in the same market, unless both teams operate under joint ownership.

So one option for co-owner Jim McPhillamy is to sell the USL Championship slot and move down to USL League One, or to move the USL Championship team out of Charlotte completely. But that also creates some situations; yes, the League One team is cheaper and has a lower operating cost, but given the uncertainly with that league and some MLS-owned teams leaving it and other sure to follow, it’s impossible to say what the circuit will look like in future years. Right now three of the 12 USL League One teams are owned by MLS teams, and their potential departure for a new MLS Division III league has to be on everyone’s radar. North Carolina FC moved down to USL League One this season; don’t be surprised if some other USL Championship teams do the same thing.

So there’s plenty for McPhillamy and his new owners to consider in coming months. From the Charlotte Post:

Nearly seven years since the announcement of the club in Uptown, McPhilliamy is not throwing the towel in on the club he founded. Selling the USL Championship rights and then purchasing rights to a League One club or self-relegating to League One are also options. McPhilliamy said they have been in discussions with multiple cities.

“I still stand by, one way or another, we’ll still have the Charlotte Independence in town,” he said. “I just don’t know if that will be Charlotte Independence [in USL] Championship or Charlotte Independence [in USL] League One.”…

“I just don’t know that a USL championship team and an MLS team complement each other in the market,” he said. “MLS is the bigger ship. We do have a good working relationship with those guys right now. I think the value of my asset is worth more in a city that doesn’t have MLS.”

RELATED STORIES: Two new USL Championship stadiums on tap for 2021; Additional Funding Approved for Memorial Stadium Renovation; Memorial Stadium Renovation ApprovedDan DiMicco to Purchase Charlotte IndependenceMemorial Stadium Renovation to be Pitched to CharlotteMecklenburg County Releases New Memorial Stadium PlanCharlotte’s Memorial Stadium Back in Play for USL Soccer

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