Charlotte, North Carolina looks like it’s one formality away from officially being awarded an expansion franchise by Major League Soccer.
NFL Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper will be joined at Charlotte’s Mint Museum Uptown Tuesday at 10 a.m. by MLS commissioner Don Garber and Charlotte mayor Vi Lyles for a “special announcement,” the league announced Monday.
Tepper, a 62-year-old hedge fund manager, has been leading the charge the launch a professional soccer club in Charlotte for more than a year. Garber long identified Charlotte as a front-runner for expansion, and discussions ramped up in recent weeks.
Lyles wrote a letter to Garber Nov. 21 personally inviting him to Charlotte in December to announce the city “joining the MLS family.”
“We are excited to welcome a Major League Soccer team to Charlotte and are taking several major steps to be a welcoming, diverse and inclusive community to the league’s 30th team,” Lyles wrote to Garber. “We have a wonderful and collaborative relationship with Tepper Sports and are aligned on our long-term goals and unified in our vision.”
Lyles also pledged $110 million in hospitality funding to bolster Tepper’s expansion efforts. The Charlotte Observer reported Dec. 4 that Tepper wants the city to help pay to upgrade Bank of America Stadium, which his new potential MLS club would share with the Panthers. The facility, built in 1996, currently holds 75,000 spectators.
Garber previously said he envisioned MLS expanding to at least 30 clubs. After the Dec. 5 MLS Board of Governors meeting, which Tepper and Panthers president Tom Glick both attended, Garber said the league was in “very, very advanced discussion” with Charlotte’s ownership group.
Tepper already applied for trademarks for his potential, unnamed team, according to WRAL and the Athletic. The trademarks have been filed under “DT Soccer LLC” and have the same address as the Panthers’ offices.
MLS will have 26 teams competing during the 2020 season with Inter Miami and Nashville joining the league. Austin, St. Louis and Sacramento have also been awarded expansion clubs and are all set to begin play by 2022.