Charlotte FC kicks off at Bank of America Stadium tonight.
Driving the news: The Major League soccer expansion franchise faces LA Galaxy at 7:30pm in front of what is lining up to be a league-record crowd. They’re hoping to beat the 72,548 attendance record set by Atlanta United.
- League Commissioner Don Garber said he expects around 75,000 fans, and the club confirmed to Axios yesterday they surpassed 74,000.
- For many, including head coach Miguel Ángel Ramírez and striker Karol Świderski, it will be their first time in front of a crowd of this size.
- Plus, Bank of America Stadium underwent a $50 million facelift over the last year and fans will experience many of the upgrades for the first time tonight.
Why it matters: MLS’ debut in Charlotte comes with anticipation, concern and a bit of hope for the city’s third major league sports franchise, which had its inaugural season delayed a year by a the pandemic.
- They’re 0-1 after a 3-0 loss at D.C. United last weekend.
- If they score their first goal tonight, the stadium will likely shake, something I’ve only felt when soccer has been played at Bank of America Stadium.
Yes, but: Resale tickets have gone for more than double the original price, and people are buying them. A lot of people want to be able to say they were part of history, as Chris Leyden, Seat Geek’s director of consumer strategy told Axios via email.
- Keep in mind, the upper deck will only be open for select matches.
- Charlotte’s average attendance goal is 30,000.
What’s next: Tailgating, pregaming with beers specific to the occasion, and if you didn’t score a ticket to the match, there are plenty of places to watch.
Bonus: If you aren’t sure about what to wear, avoid wearing the opponent’s colors or another team’s jersey. Blue and black are safe bets. When it comes to jerseys, or kits, if it isn’t a Charlotte FC jersey, don’t wear it. This isn’t the time to wear a soccer jersey just because you have it.
- If you’re not ready to commit to a kit, Girl Tribe and Glory Days Apparel have T-shirts and sweatshirts.
On the pitch:
Świderski, Charlotte’s only designated player, missed the inaugural match due to visa issues.
- He returned to Poland with his wife and son to get everything sorted, flying back to Charlotte on Feb. 26 and rushing straight to the apartment to watch Charlotte take on D.C. United.
- Świderski also plays for the Polish national team, who will not play their World Cup qualifier against Russia due to Russia invading Ukraine.
Peruvian striker Yordy Reyna and Argentine midfielder Titi Ortiz produced Charlotte’s best chances on goal last weekend.
- Ortiz scored a header in the 19th minute, but the goal was disallowed, because of offside.
It will be an emotional night for defender Jaylin Lindsey, who will become the first Charlotte native to play for Charlotte FC at Bank of America Stadium.
- The same can be said for midfielder Brandt Bronico, who played in college for the Charlotte 49ers. He’ll be the first to play here for both a college program and the MLS franchise.
- Both Lindsey and Bronico remember going to Carolina Panthers games, and now Bank of America Stadium is their home.
- Bonus: Charlotte FC announced signing Bronico on his wedding day to former Charlotte 49ers women’s soccer player, Rebecca Beatty, now Rebecca Bronico.
Looking ahead to an MLS All-Star game:
MLS has “committed an All-Star game to Charlotte,” but they haven’t set a date, Garber told me during his media availability at Charlotte FC’s mini-pitch dedication at the Camino Health Center in University City.
- For comparison, Atlanta hosted the All-Star game in 2018, a year after entering the league.
- Of note: Charlotte hosted the NBA All-Star game in 2019.