By Caleb Adams
Exactly a year ago today, Charlotte FC announced their name, crest, and colors. Since then, the club has continued to work tirelessly to stay on track with its goals and vision in preparation for the inaugural season. Building the club’s staff, the coaching personnel, and bringing in the right players have all topped the list of the many priorities the club has had.
Less than a year from the club’s first game in early 2022, Charlotte FC boasts 42 full-time employees and looks to increase that number to at least seventy-five. The new team members include ticketing, marketing, creative, technical, and digital staff. All high-quality individuals who come from different backgrounds, industries, and experiences. Within the next few months, Charlotte FC’s staff will be fully filled, including the Chief Fan Officer position, which serves as a bridge between the club and fans.
Soccer is a grassroots sport, that focuses on the local community and it is important for the club to honor that. Charlotte Football Club is committed to positively impacting our fans across the Carolinas through work that supports upward mobility, food insecurity and our military. Community engagement is one of the central objectives that the club continues to make a priority.
The three major initiatives either in the works or currently underway that drive the club are Greater Goals, Captains Academy, Pitches for Progress. Greater Goals, with its community partners, helps provide Title 1 elementary schools around Charlotte with free after school soccer and literacy programs. Captains Academy invests and empowers local high school leaders and gives them the opportunity to meet, listen, and learn from leaders in the community. Pitches for Progress will help build 22 mini soccer pitches in at-risk communities across the Carolinas and each will be accompanied with mentorship and soccer programs.
The first of these of these pitches debuted at The Apartments at Sailboat Bay in East Charlotte in late June of 2021. This marks the beginning of the journey for Charlotte FC, and partners like Ally, to build 21 other pitches around the Carolinas within the next few years.
The club also kickstarted its Small Business Spotlight, so far highlighting 12 small businesses in different industries with diverse ownership. Staying true to keeping the focus at the grassroot levels, highlighting local businesses is a key part of that.
Community impact does not occur alone and it’s been vital for the club to partner with non-profit organizations. Since last November, Charlotte FC and Ally hosted three events where they distributed Scholastic Book Packs to students at four local elementary schools. In addition, Charlotte FC partnered with The Soccer Foundation of Charlotte (Soccer F.C.) to host its second annual Paper Airplane Fundraiser. The fundraiser was to raise money for Soccer F.C.’s after-school soccer and literacy programs at local Title 1 Elementary Schools.
Charlotte FC supporter’s groups are also contributing to the community. The Lake Norman chapter of Mint City Collective has been hosting clean up events at 2.25 mile stretch of highway they adopted. Kernersville and NoDa chapter members have been participating in blood drives. The QC Royals supporters groups partnered with Second Harvest Food Bank, Block Love CLT, and Trees Charlotte. Southbound & Crown created the Because of Brenton fund in honor of their co-founder, Brenton McCaskill, who gave his life protecting his family in a home invasion. The fund raises money to provide scholarships to disadvantaged youth and low income families in York County.
The Charlotte FC Academy has been in full swing for a year now and transitioning into their second season next month. In the inaugural year of the Academy, Charlotte FC was represented by U17 and U14 sides. Despite never playing together and playing during a pandemic, the Academy got off to strong start in its first season. Some notable games were the U17 comeback in Florida against Inter Miami and the strong performances from both teams against Atlanta United in Bank of America Stadium, as well as exciting games and performances against the likes of Columbus Crew, DC United and NYCFC. To top off the impressive first season, the U17 team qualified for the MLS Next Playoffs where the best the best of the academies compete to be crowned number one in the country. The U-17s made it into the round of 16, a great accomplishment for any team let alone a first-year program.
In order to provide playing opportunities despite where young players are from in the Carolinas, the Homestay Program was created to provide a safe and healthy housing environment for academy players who come from outside the city. Players live with a host family in Charlotte which allows them to participate full-time with the Academy. It’s also a way for the club to connect to families and communities outside of Charlotte.
Implemented in the 2020-2021 season, the Charlotte FC Discovery Program will continue into the new season and has been used to build the brand new U14 team. The U14 team will be an additional, full-time program that will accompany the existing U17 and rising U15 team in the 2021-2022 season. The vision and playing identity that the Academy coaching staff and players have been working tirelessly to implement has really begun to shine through, the end goal being developing players who can contribute to the first team. The Charlotte FC Academy will be looking to build upon its excellent start in the upcoming 2021-2022 season.
Fans have been eager to hear who would lead the club as head coach but the club remained patient and meticulous in this delicate process. Sporting Director, Zoran Krneta and the technical staff didn’t rush one of the most important decisions the club would be making it its inaugural season. After a long and thorough search, Spaniard Miguel Angel Ramírez emerged as the best candidate for the club. His desire to play attractive, attacking soccer and strong track record of developing youth into senior team players aligns with the club’s vision and goals.
Comparing to recent expansion teams, Atlanta United hired their first head coach Tata Martino in September of 2016 six months before their inaugural season. LAFC hired Bob Bradley in July of 2017 eight months before their inaugural season, similar to the timing of Charlotte FC. Inter Miami waited until December 2019 to hire Diego Alonso which was three months before their inaugural season.
Along with the head coach hiring, two assistant coaches were announced the following week after the head coach. Italian Christian Lattanzio has previous experience at West Ham, Manchester City, NYCFC, and Nice. Lattanzio will be providing invaluable MLS experience and insight to Miguel. Spaniard Mikel Antía has previously worked with Ramírez at the elite Aspire academy in Qatar. Both have worked with world renowned coaches and bring wide-ranging experience to the new coaching staff.
The club has also taken the same approach for player acquisition as they did for the head coach and his assistants. Deliberate and methodical to ensure the players they acquire align with the playing philosophy and style the club wants to play. To date, Charlotte FC has signed six players.
Since July 2020, the club has added an additional four players. Two young defenders in Pole Jan Sobociński and Cary native, Adam Amour, as well as midfielder and Charlotte native Brandt Bronico. Topping it off with Premier League winner, Austrian Christian Fuchs. This brings the total to six players along with Sergio Ruiz and Riley McGree. The Charlotte FC technical department is leaving no stone unturned in scouring for the best talent around the world with five nationalities represented with the players thus far.
LAFC and Austin FC reached a six player total in the Decembers before their inaugural seasons. Inter Miami had six players in November 2019 while Nashville had their first six in by August before their inaugural seasons.
Player acquisition has been a process that has been going on behind the scenes since before the club even had a name. There is still plenty of important work left to do on that front as Charlotte FC works towards building the entire roster. The technical department along with the coaching staff will continue to work diligently for the rest of year to bring players who fit the mold of what the club and coaches are looking for.
Club leadership is making decisions that all align with the club’s philosophy and vision on and off the pitch it has had since the start. A lot of the foundation has been set, but there is plenty of work left do to make sure Charlotte FC has the best possible start to their inaugural season of 2022.
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