Charlotte Independence

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Garber: Charlotte tops list of expansion hopefuls

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After recently announcing that the future 29th team in Major League Soccer would be Sacramento Republic, the expansion train could head back to the east coast for the landmark 30th franchise.

At his annual MLS State of the League speech, Don Garber revealed that Charlotte, North Carolina has jumped to the top of the MLS expansion race. David Tepper, owner of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, has been leading the bid to bring MLS to Charlotte. The city currently hosts a USL franchise, Charlotte Independence, though they play their games at the Sportsplex in Matthews, North Carolina, 15 miles from the city center.

[READ: Top PL Storylines: Week 12]

Phoenix and Las Vegas were also mentioned on the shortlist as MLS expansion shows no signs of slowing down. MLS has already announced teams 24-29, despite none of them having kicked a ball yet.

Tepper’s bid is attractive to MLS for many reasons. First, he’s a multi-billionaire, the founder and president of a hedge fund, and bringing Tepper in adds to the list of deep-pocketed MLS owners. Secondly, it fills another open space geographically for the league, which has no teams between Atlanta and Washington D.C. in the Southeast U.S. And third, Tepper appears interested in renovating his downtown NFL arena, Bank of America Stadium, to regularly host soccer games as well. Each year, at least one match from the International Champions Cup is held in Charlotte, with mixed crowds over the years.

 

According to reports from the Charlotte Observer, Tepper initially asked the city of Charlotte to fund, or help pay for a brand-new stadium, despite the Bank of America Stadium opening as recently as 1996. However, per a report in September, Tepper is now asking for the city to pay for stadium renovations and upgrades, as well as helping create a practice facility and headquarters for the new MLS club. The report states Tepper is requesting the city pay for stadium upgrades, while he covers the cost of operating the team and paying the estimated $200-million plus expansion fee, which is standard for all MLS investor-operators.

It’s unclear whether the city will agree to Tepper’s demands or wave them off, but from where Tepper is starting, it appears there’s still a long way to go until Charlotte will have MLS-dedicated facilities.

That being said, if New York City FC has shown us anything, it’s that an MLS team can still survive as a tenant in someone else’s stadium and on someone else’s fields. Only recently, more than a half dozen years after NYCFC was founded, did it move into its own practice facility.

US Open Cup roundup: Upsets! NASL’s Cosmos top NYC, Revs fall to USL side

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To say Wednesday was a bonkers night in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup somehow understates things, which is one of the main reasons we love this tournament.

Three matches went to extra time, two to penalties, and two underdogs found wins against Major League Soccer sides in the competition’s fourth round.

[ MORE: Tuesday’s Open Cup roundup ]

While Tuesday saw MLS sides sweep their competition of eight USL sides and one NASL side, the lower leagues struck back with a vengeance.

First, the USL’s Pittsburgh Riverhounds pushed DC United to extra time before Kofi Opare and Nick DeLeon each netted to give the MLS visitors a 3-1 win.

Then Orlando City, aided by a trio of Carlos Rivas penalties — yes, you read that right — overcame blowing a 4-2 lead over the Charleston Battery with 107 minutes in the books by converting one more penalty than their USL competition, 8-7.

Colombian midfielder Jorge Herrera will be celebrating both his country’s 1-0 win over Brazil and his club’s 1-0 win over the New England Revolution after his 55th minute goal led the Charlotte Independence into the fifth round.

Finally, a Brazilian and a Zimbabwean led the NASL’s New York Cosmos to a riveting 3-2 win over New York City FC, this one in penalty kicks. Kwadwo Poku gave NYC a 2-0 lead on his second of the night just after halftime, but Leo Fernandes and Lucky Mkosana scored to tie it.

Mkosana’s 90th minute tally sent the thing to extra time, which led to nothing but a missed Pablo Alvarez PK. The Cosmos seized that opportunity, winning this edition of the East River Derby, 4-3 in kicks. An to wrap things up, a Robbie Keane hat trick led the LA Galaxy to a 6-1 rout of PSA Elite in the final game of the fourth round.

The draw for the fifth round is Thursday, and the next batch of games is June 30 and July 1.

Wednesday’s results

Richmond Kickers 1-3 Columbus Crew
Pittsburgh Riverhounds 1-1 (1-3 AET) DC United
Charleston Battery 4-4 Orlando City SC  (Orlando wins 8-7 on PKs)
New England Revolution 0-1 Charlotte Independence
New York Cosmos 2-2 New York City FC (Cosmos win 4-3 on PKs)
Houston Dynamo 2-0 Austin Aztex
Los Angeles Galaxy 6-1 PSA Elite 

Tuesday’s results

Seattle Sounders 1-3 Portland Timbers (AET)
San Jose Earthquakes 2-2 Sacramento Republic (San Jose win 6-5 on PKs)
Real Salt Lake 2-1 Seattle Sounders II
Colorado Rapids 4-1 Colorado Springs Switchbacks
Chicago Fire 1-0 Louisville City FC (AET)
FC Dallas 4-1 Oklahoma Energy FC
Sporting Kansas City 1-0 Saint Louis FC
Philadelphia Union 0-0 Rochester Rhinos (Philadelphia win 3-1 on PKs)
New York Red Bulls 3-0 Atlanta Silverbacks