Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium has claimed a first by agreeing a five-year deal to host International Champions Cup (ICC) matches.
The agreement with Relevent Sports Group (RSG) marks the first time that the global club football competition’s organiser and promoter has struck a long-term contract with a host city. Bank of America Stadium, home to NFL American football franchise the Carolina Panthers, will host its fifth ICC match this summer when Arsenal takes on ACF Fiorentina on July 20. This year’s match also marks the first of the new five-year deal.
In addition, RSG announced that it has chosen Charlotte to host the 2019 House of Soccer on July 19-20. House of Soccer is an immersive pop-up experience bringing together the community, fans, clubs, artists and influencers. House of Soccer will offer unique access to clubs, players, live entertainment, soccer fanatics and freestylers for fans to interact with the sport on multiple levels.
“This announcement is a big deal for our community and puts Charlotte at the epicentre of soccer’s rapid growth in the United States,” said Carolina Panthers president Tom Glick. “Charlotte’s reputation as a soccer city is driven by the passion of our fans, who continue to display their commitment to the game by attending matches and playing soccer at all ages, and the growing drumbeat of fans calling for a top-level domestic team.”
RSG CEO Daniel Sillman added: “Whether it’s the loyal soccer fanbase, the business community, philanthropic organisations, or city government, all stakeholders have spoken loud and clear that Charlotte is a city that wants to host major soccer events.”
The ICC announcement comes as Panthers owner David Tepper steps up his efforts to bring a Major League Soccer (MLS) expansion franchise to Charlotte. Tepper and Glick are set to travel to New York next week to meet with MLS officials, with the Panthers owner having set out his intention to land a team after acquiring the NFL franchise last summer.
MLS has already announced its intention to expand to 30 teams. While Sacramento and St. Louis are considered strong favourites to secure the 28th and 29th slots, Charlotte is one of a number of other markets vying for the 30th team.
Glick said: “We’re confident in our candidacy. Major League Soccer has been on a roll. The growth of that league over the last few years has been remarkable. We’d love the opportunity to add to that. We think that the region deserves it and will support it – we’re confident of that. We can only do our half of it. Hopefully we’ll be able to convince Major League Soccer that we’re the right place for them.”
The Charlotte Observer newspaper notes that RSG has worked with cities including Nashville and Detroit in the past in their efforts to secure teams. Sillman said that while Relevent is not currently part of any Charlotte bid, it would be happy to assist.
He added: “I can say that absolutely, the ICC match, House of Soccer, will not only help prove that Charlotte is a contender for a (2026) FIFA World Cup game, but also a welcome home for MLS, and as I mentioned, it’s something we’ve continued to help other cities be a part of historically. We’ll see if Tom reaches out to us, but they know that we’re always willing to be a helpful partner.”