The city of Charlotte has been awarded a Major League Soccer franchise and it will begin play in 2021, the league announced on Tuesday. MLS commissioner Don Garber made the expected announcement at Mint Museum Uptown where he was joined by David Tepper and Vi Lyles, the mayor of Charlotte.
Tepper, 62, became the principle owner of the Carolina Panthers of the National Football League in 2018 when he purchased the team from embattled owner Jerry Richardson. He was forced to sell five percent of his share of the Pittsburgh Steelers when he closed the deal in May of 2018. When Tepper took over the Panthers, he made it known that he wanted to bring an expansion team to the Queen City and recently made a formal presentation to MLS officials in an effort to finalize a deal.
"We are thrilled to welcome Charlotte as Major League Soccer's 30th club," said Garber. "During the last two decades, Charlotte has experienced enormous energy and growth, which matches soccer's explosive rise in popularity in the United States. We are pleased to add David Tepper to our ownership group and look forward to working with him and his entire organization to launch Major League Soccer in the Carolinas in 2021."
Tepper is expected to pay a $325 million expansion fee, according to Steven Goff of the Washington Post. The expansion team is expected to play its games at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina, home of the Panthers, according to the Associated Press.
MLS will expand to 26 teams at the start of the 2020 season with the additions of Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC, who just participated in the expansion draft. The league will grow to 28 with Austin FC and now the Charlotte franchise in 2021, and then 30 by 2022 with the addition of St. Louis and Sacramento. The Charlotte franchise becomes the 20th team added to MLS since 2005.
It remains to be seen what that team will be called. It appears as if some names have already been trademarked in the event that a soccer franchise came to the city.
CBS Sports will continue to update this story as it continues to develop.