By Ryan Bailey

The third addition to Charlotte FC’s inaugural roster brings MLS experience and a track record of success in the Queen City

CHARLOTTE—On Friday, Dec. 18th, the day after celebrating its one-year anniversary, Charlotte FC added a third player to its inaugural roster: former Chicago Fire midfielder Brandt Bronico.

The Carolina native, who was raised in High Point, N.C., was overjoyed at the announcement of his return to the Queen City, where he enjoyed a successful collegiate career at UNC Charlotte.

However, the 25-year-old already had a pretty good reason for celebrating: the announcement of his new team happened to fall on his wedding day.

“The contract news was a dream come true,” Bronico said on the phone from Louisiana, where he married former Charlotte 49ers women’s soccer player Rebecca Beatty. “This is exactly what we wanted all along. Charlotte is a city that means so much to my wife and I, and to be the third-ever signing for the club is such a blessing. I don’t think words can describe how much it means to us.”

Bronico tied the knot on a riverboat in New Orleans, and chuckles as he recalls juggling photoshoots with his groomsmen and phone calls ironing out the details of his return to North Carolina. “Everyone was so happy to hear that we were coming back to Charlotte, so it just made the celebration of our wedding that much sweeter,” says Bronico.

Brandt Bronico UNC Charlotte

In 74 collegiate matches for UNC Charlotte, the box-to-box midfielder scored 25 goals and added 23 assists. In his senior season, he helped the 49ers secure the Conference USA regular-season title, and was crowned Conference USA Player of the Year, Offensive MVP and the Golden Boot winner.

“UNC Charlotte was everything I could’ve asked for in a school and soccer program,” Bronico said. “Coaches Langan, Osborne, Gookins and Edwards instilled a great culture where roles and expectations were clearly defined. We were a top-10 program in the nation every year and excellence was a habit at UNC Charlotte.”

Bronico’s time in Charlotte proved to be pivotal for personal and professional reasons.

“Charlotte is where Rebecca and I met, it was my pathway to the MLS, and the Panthers—my favorite football team—play there too,” says Bronico. “So, yes, we always wanted to come back!”

Prior to college, Bronico spent his youth soccer career with NC Fusion and the Carolina Dynamo. At those clubs, he was coached by current Charlotte FC Technical Director Marc Nicholls.

“To put it simply, Marc is a soccer genius,” says Bronico. “When I was playing for him, it was a crucial time for my development and I am so grateful that Marc was my coach for the majority of it. I always felt his sense of belief in me which helped me push and improve under him.

“I would not be where I am today if I did not have Marc as my coach at that time.”

Nicholls recalls discovering a 12-year-old Bronico at a game where he had initially intended to scout a different player.

“Brandt immediately caught my eye—he had great energy, an industry to his play, and a clear enthusiasm,” Nicholls said.

“I’m really delighted that Brandt is coming home,” he adds. “He has an incredible appetite to work, train and play. And he’s always competing: you can’t have a second off when Brandt’s around. Our head coach will be delighted to have a guy like him on the roster.”

After being selected in the third round of the 2017 SuperDraft, Bronico spent four seasons with the Fire. He soon became a consistent starter and a fan favorite, earning 66 appearances, two goals and eight assists.

“Chicago was an awesome experience and I am so grateful for my time there,” says Bronico. “I felt like I improved a lot there playing under some fantastic coaches and with some great players.”

One such great player was World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger, whom Bronico regularly partnered with in midfield.

“Playing alongside Schweinsteiger was so cool and such a blessing,” he says. “Not only was he one of the best players in the world, but he was also extremely humble and was always willing to help us younger guys whenever we had questions. He helped me develop and improve so much in our three years together and I will forever be grateful for that.”

Bronico enjoyed plenty of success in Chicago and cites his finest MLS moment thus far as his first full start for the Fire, where he registered an assist and took home the Man of the Match Award on the road in Philadelphia. “That was such a rewarding experience and something I will never forget,” he says.

As the next chapter of his soccer career begins, Bronico’s enthusiasm for returning to a city that has played a significant role in his life is clear. He notes that he proposed to Rebecca in Romare Bearden Park, looks forward to regularly attending Panthers games once again and lists 5Church, Fahrenheit and Seoul Food Meat Company among his favorite restaurant spots.

Most of all, Charlotte FC’s third signing relishes the prospect of taking to the field at Bank of America Stadium in 2022.

“Stepping on that field will honestly be a dream come true,” Says Bronico. “To represent Charlotte and play in a stadium that I’ve been going to since I was little will mean so much to me. I can’t wait for that day to come!”