Charlotte has today (Tuesday) been awarded a Major League Soccer expansion franchise, which will begin playing at Bank of America Stadium, home of the Carolina Panthers NFL team, in 2021.
The North Carolina city will host the 30th MLS franchise. Bank of America Stadium, which has a capacity of 75,000, will undergo extensive renovation work to make it suitable for hosting MLS games in 2021.
As part of the plans, “world-class” locker rooms and facilities will be added, along with a new supporters’ section in the East End of the stadium.
ESPN, citing sources close to the deal, reported that David Tepper, who owns the Panthers, has purchased the MLS franchise for $325m (£247m/€291m) – a record for the league. Tepper has previously said that he wants to build a new retractable-roof stadium that would host the Panthers and the new MLS team.
Bank of America Stadium has experience of hosting football matches before, having staged high-profile friendlies featuring the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan, along with a Concacaf Gold Cup double-header earlier this year.
Tepper said: “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.”
MLS commissioner Don Garber added: “We are thrilled to welcome Charlotte as Major League Soccer’s 30th club. During the last two decades, Charlotte has experienced enormous energy and growth, which matches soccer’s explosive rise in popularity in the United States. We are pleased to add David Tepper to our ownership group and look forward to working with him and his entire organisation to launch Major League Soccer in the Carolinas in 2021.”
The team will become the third major-league franchise in Charlotte, joining the Panthers and the NBA’s Hornets. The city does not have an NHL or Major League Baseball team.
Next year, MLS will add new teams in Miami and Nashville, before Charlotte’s franchise joins in 2021 alongside Austin FC. Teams from St. Louis and Sacramento will join in 2022.