Charlotte FC takes startup approach to building a franchise

Charlotte FC takes startup approach to building a franchise
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Marc Nicholls starts each day at the Charlotte FC headquarters by fist-bumping all 40 employees.

He’s a two-time U.S. Soccer Coach of the Year and now the expansion team’s technical director, but his greetings are for everyone: the content team, the sales team, anybody who’s part of this new sports organism that’s growing in Charlotte’s center city.

Why it matters: Since Major League Soccer awarded Charlotte and Panthers owner David Tepper an expansion team in late 2019, the team has been quietly establishing its own identity, one that’s distinct from the Panthers.

They’ve moved into their own offices on the 12th floor of a South Tryon Street skyscraper, and it has all the feel of a buzzy startup headquarters.

  • The sales team rings a bell each time they sell a season ticket.
  • A clock counts down the days until 2022.
  • They’re all trying to figure out where to put a standings board.
Charlotte FC offices

211 days left, as of last Thursday, June 3. Photo: Michael Graff/Axios

What’s new: The team begins playing next spring at Bank of America Stadium, which is undergoing renovations to accommodate MLS games, including the addition of a central tunnel. The ownership team recently tore up the natural grass turf to replace it with FieldTurf, which it says will help handle the additional use.

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  • Charlotte FC has made several key hires on the technical side, including that of five players and a sporting director, Zoran Krneta, who will essentially act as the team’s general manager. In the coming weeks, the team plans to announce its head coach, too.
  • They’ve added to all facets of the operation, from marketing to graphic design, and recently added a social media director in Blair Berry.

The big picture: Everybody works under the Tepper Sports and Entertainment umbrella, but it became clear early on in the team’s development that the MLS and NFL are different animals.

  • “It’s nice to have them as a sibling to learn from and pick their brains,” graphic designer Taylor Banner told us last week. “But here it’s nice to have (soccer) as a priority. Here we all have the same mission in mind.”

Jessica O’Neill, Charlotte FC’s director of marketing who joined after years with the Panthers, says the pace of the organization sets it apart. “Here it’s like, ‘what do you want to do? Go do it now. What do you need to do it? Let’s go.’ That’s so empowering.”

New fans: Despite the team’s name, Charlotte FC aims to be a regional draw. Over the last several months, the team’s been making stops all over the Carolinas — from NASCAR races to this week’s Carolina Country Music Fest in Myrtle Beach — to drum up interest and introduce the team.

What’s next: Charlotte FC’s been consulting with established teams like Atlanta United to figure out next steps in its growth. The business side, currently about 24 employees, will grow about threefold by the time the season starts.

  • On the technical side, which has roughly 16 people now, the addition of about a dozen others will include roles like assistant coaches, trainers and a nutritionist.

We took a tour of Charlotte FC’s new offices last week. Here’s a look around:

Charlotte FC offices

Charlotte FC offices. Photo: Michael Graff/Axios

Charlotte FC offices (Photo: Katie Peralta Soloff/Axios)

Photo: Katie Peralta Soloff/Axios

Charlotte FC offices

Photo: Michael Graff/Axios

Charlotte FC offices (Photo: Katie Peralta Soloff/Axios)

Charlotte FC offices

The sales team rings this bell after every season-ticket purchase. Photo: Michael Graff/Axios

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