Charlotte FC exceeded expectations in some areas, but failed in others during its inaugural Major League Soccer season.
Driving the news: MLS commissioner Don Garber presented his state of the league address Thursday, days before the MLS Cup today between LAFC and Philadelphia Union.
- “Charlotte was never on anybody’s MLS expansion list,” Garber said when I asked him to assess Charlotte’s first season. He added that league leaders “never expected” to have the “excitement and energy of what’s going on in Charlotte today.”
Charlotte also never built a soccer-specific stadium, which has long been a preference for new markets to enter MLS. “I don’t know that there is any need today to be thinking about a soccer-specific stadium in Charlotte, but life’s a long time,” Garber said. “The team is only a year old.”
Why it matters: Charlotte FC surpassed its goal of averaging 30,000 fans per match, but the team failed to reach the playoffs, finishing ninth in the Eastern Conference at 13-18-3 with 42 points.
- The team also saw significant turnover from the coaching staff to the front office to the roster.
- The question now: Did fans show up because the team was shiny and new, or will they keep coming back, even with rising ticket prices?
Flashback: Head coach Miguel Ángel Ramírez was fired after less than a year after on the job and halfway through the first season. He was the latest in a wave of exits on Mint Street, and three coaches left with him.
- Club technical director Marc Nicholls, Charlotte’s second hire, left to take a similar role in Columbus before the season started.
- Nick Kelly resigned after three months as Tepper Sports and Entertainment CEO, shortly after being promoted to the role following a stint as Charlotte FC’s inaugural president. He was replaced by Joe LaBue.
What we’re watching: The quest for consistency. The team signed Christian Lattanzio to a two-year deal to be head coach last month.
- They also extended the contracts of sporting director Zoran Krneta, scouting director Thomas Schaling and head of analytics and technical scouting Lisandro Isei.
Between the lines: Charlotte succeeded in some areas. They created an atmosphere unlike any other sporting event here, and they broke the league’s single-game attendance record with 74,479 fans at Bank of America Stadium on March 5.
By the numbers: Charlotte’s average MLS attendance was 35,244.
- Only one Charlotte home match saw under 30,000 fans.
- The team had more than 24,000 season ticket holders, the club confirmed to Axios.
- They also hosted and beat English club Chelsea in a July friendly, which drew 52,673 fans. Tepper said the Chelsea match was one of his favorite moments of the season, and it put the club on a global stage.
- “The people that hate Chelsea, they were watching it, I’ll tell ya that,” Tepper told reporters at mini-pitch dedication on Tuesday.
Zoom out: The club’s headquarters will be in east Charlotte, but they won’t be part of the Eastland Mall redevelopment. Instead they’ll build their home at 8600 McAlpine Park Dr., where they currently train.
- The full facility will open in spring 2023, housing the first team, MLS NEXT Pro (a minor league team beginning play in 2023) and the academy (youth teams).
What’s next: It’s time to build a roster for year two, and the three-round MLS SuperDraft is Dec. 21.