In an announcement ceremony from the Mint Museum in uptown Charlotte, Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber officially welcomed Charlotte as the 30th MLS franchise.
Garber announced that the club is targeting a 2021 start date and made special note of crediting owner Dave Tepper several times for his heavy involvement in the club’s inception.
“We are thrilled to welcome Charlotte as Major League Soccer’s 30th club,” Commissioner Don Garber said in a league statement released alongside the live announcement. “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 organization to launch Major League Soccer in the Carolinas in 2021.”
Tepper, owner of the Carolina Panthers, was also on hand for the announcement.
“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,” Tepper said. “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.”
Already the owner of an NFL franchise that has a long history of rivalry with Atlanta, Tepper was eager to stoke the fires with Atlanta United at the announcement ceremony. “WE are the hot city,” Tepper yelled to the crowd, referencing Atlanta’s “Hotlanta” nickname. “Screw that other city!!!”
Tepper reportedly agreed to a record expansion fee of approximately $325 million to join the league, and will do so alongside fellow expansion franchise Austin FC. The league currently has 26 active franchises, including newcomers Inter Miami and Nashville FC who will debut in the upcoming 2020 season. After Charlotte and Austin are expected to debut in 2021, Sacramento Republic FC and an unnamed St. Louis franchise will take the field in 2022 to complete the current expansion landscape.
Naming will reportedly take place in the spring, although a few potential selections have already been submitted to the U.S. copyright office.
A few weeks ago, when asked about further expansion, Garber said he is “not ruling that out,” but at the announcement ceremony today claimed “this will likely be our last announcement.”