By Ryan Bailey

Since its official announcement in December 2019, Charlotte’s Major League Soccer team has enjoyed an eventful and successful first year.


December 17th, 2019: The Big Announcement

On an overcast Tuesday morning last December, special guests, local council members and an excited group of fans from the local soccer community gathered at the Mint Museum in Uptown Charlotte for a historic announcement.

“Today is a historic day for the Queen City,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber on stage that morning, accompanied by owner David Tepper and Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles.

“It is my pleasure to welcome Charlotte to MLS.”

At a series of events across the city, the party continued throughout the day and into the night.

“The awarding of an expansion team for Charlotte by Major League Soccer is a proud moment and significant for Charlotte and everyone in our community,” said Tepper on the day of the announcement. “I’ve made clear for a long time that I have two goals as a team owner: sustained winning on the field and making a difference in the community. These will be our goals with Charlotte’s MLS team, and the work begins today.”

David Tepper Celebrates with Charlotte Fans in Pub

MLS Press Announcement Event Photos

Fans Celebrate Charlotte MLS at Brewery

Ally Employee Rally MLS Announcement

December 18th, 2019: Season ticket deposits for 10,000 seats

If any indication was needed of the fervent appetite for soccer in the Carolinas, it came from the instant demand for seats at Bank of America Stadium. Just one day after the team’s official announcement, season ticket deposits had already exceeded 10,000.

Thanks to its fans, Charlotte FC more than doubled the number of season ticket deposits received by local rivals Atlanta Utd on its respective first day.

“There are so many people here that love soccer, that play soccer, that watch soccer. So the numbers are undeniable,” said Tepper Sports & Entertainment President Tom Glick at the time. “We’re committed to bringing a winning club, but also building that club along with the fans here.”

December 31st, 2019: Charlotte hires Sporting Director Zoran Krneta

Charlotte FC closed out 2019 with its first major hire: Sporting Director Zoran Krneta.

Recognized worldwide for his ability to identify talented players and place them in top professional leagues around the world, Krneta was brought in to direct the club’s soccer operations.

“David Tepper’s vision, together with the knowledge and expertise of the technical and executive team we are assembling, demonstrate that our goal will be to compete for the MLS Cup title starting from year one,” said Krneta upon his arrival.

January 7th, 2020: Marc Nicholls hired as Technical Director

Hot on the heels of Krneta came the arrival of Charlotte FC’s Technical Director Marc Nicholls.

The two-time U.S. Soccer Coach of the Year arrived from the Seattle Sounders, where his track record of developing young talent was clearly demonstrated: 20 of his players had become U.S. youth internationals in the year prior to his arrival in Charlotte.

“We’re all very passionate about producing home-grown players. It brings so many advantages to the club and the community as a whole,” Nicholls said shortly after arriving in Charlotte. “We’re not just having an academy for the sake of it. It will be an integral part of this club.”

January 7th, 2020: Season ticket deposits for 20,000 seats

Less than a month after the official announcement, the palpable excitement for Charlotte’s new MLS team continued to grow. It took a matter of weeks for the season ticket deposit tally to double in size.

“In just three weeks we have deposits for 20,000, more now, than 20,000 season tickets,” said Glick in an interview with WSOCTV. “We have a list of things to make soccer even better at Bank of America Stadium, and it’s already great, that’s why the attendances are so good, because it’s such a good place to watch,” he added.

January 13th, 2020: Dustin Swinehart becomes Director of Community Engagement

Dustin Swinehart

After forging his reputation as a ruthless striker for the Charlotte Eagles, Dustin Swinehart hung up his cleats and dedicated himself to serving the local community.

“I have spent the last 22 years of my life and career investing in our community through soccer, and through serving others,” Swinehart said in January. “I am honored by the opportunity to continue that as part of Charlotte’s Major League Soccer team. I’m excited to help build a team that will make our city proud, and that will build the belief that our community is better because the club is here.”

January 16th, 2020: Thomas Schaling announced as Director of Scouting

With a keen eye for talent, a global network of contacts, and data analysis skills that helped PSV Eindhoven win three Dutch Eredivisie league titles during his tenure, Thomas Schaling was a rising star in the world of scouting when Charlotte FC secured his services.

In his previous role as International Senior Scout with PSV, Schaling and his team were able to identify and sign difference-making players, including Mexican National Team stars Hirving Lozano and Andrés Guardado, plus two-time Premier League winner Oleksandr Zinchenko.

“Thomas’ ability to lead, organize and motivate his scouting team will undoubtedly produce results very quickly,” said Krneta shortly after his announcement. “In addition to welcoming Thomas to the growing team, I am looking forward to closely working with him and his team in bringing the best soccer talent to the city of Charlotte.”

Over the past year, Schaling has built Charlotte FC’s global scouting team and laid the groundwork for the inaugural roster—two slots of which have already been filled.

February 28th, 2020: Dan Lock hired as Academy Manager

Charlotte’s Academy program was bolstered in February by the arrival of Dan Lock, who boasts over a decade of experience in developing, mentoring and managing coaches at all youth levels.

Lock arrived from the highly successful Seattle Sounders program, and has previously held director and management positions at MLS academy level.

“Charlotte is a vibrant city with a great passion for the game, and the Carolinas have a huge amount of potential,” said Lock at the time. “I’m looking forward to us building on the foundations already laid in the region, and developing young talent for the club.”

Lock expanded his role to coach the U17 Academy team, who experienced a highly successful debut under his watch.

July 8th, 2020: Sergio Ruiz becomes Charlotte FC’s first-ever signing

During MLS’ two-day summer transfer window, which fell before the start of the 2020 MLS Is Back Tournament, Charlotte FC dropped a big surprise: a new player!

Midfielder Sergio Ruiz arrived via transfer from Spanish second division side Racing Santander, whom he represented as captain. On September 3rd, he was loaned to Las Palmas, where he has become a regular starter and integral team player.

“He is someone who has adapted himself very well to different roles, whether that’s playing in a two-man or a three-man midfield,” said Schaling.

“Every team needs mature, dependable players who think about the team first. Sergio is a technical midfielder who reads the game well, both with and without the ball. We are looking forward to seeing him represent us.”

July 22nd, 2020: Charlotte FC name and crest announced

After spending its first seven months under the placeholder Charlotte MLS moniker, the team officially unveiled its name and crest in July.

“Charlotte FC is part of an exciting new era for sports in Charlotte and the Carolinas. Today’s unveiling of our name, colors and crest will be remembered as one of the most exciting days in our club’s history,” said Glick.

“Our fans have been at the heart of creating this brand. This is a large and growing group of soccer fans who, like us, have a passion for the game and big goals and ambitions. We will keep building together with them and delivering a club to which they belong.”

August 22nd, 2020: Academy plays its first-ever matches

Charlotte FC’s U14s hold a unique honor in club history, as the first-ever team to represent the club on the field.

The Academy team, coached by Mark Simpson, debuted in an exhibition match against Carolina Elite Soccer Academy (CESA) U15s at the Manchester Meadows training facility in Rock Hill. Dan Lock’s U17 side made their debut on the same day against CESA U-19s.

October 5th, 2020: Riley McGree announced as Charlotte FC’s second signing

Charlotte FC brought more delight to fans in October with the announcement of its second signing: attacking midfielder Riley McGree.

The Australian international arrived from Adelaide Utd. and was immediately loaned to Birmingham City in the EFL Championship.

“I’m so excited to be part of something special with Charlotte FC,” said McGree upon signing. “The opportunity to play in a fast-growing league like MLS is perfect for me and I’ll give everything I have to make our fans proud. After speaking with Zoran and learning about the club’s ambitions and goals, I couldn’t be more thrilled to join this team.”

McGree was named the Hyundai A-League Young Footballer of the Year in 2019-20 and was nominated for the 2018 FIFA Puskas Award for his incredible ‘scorpion kick’ goal.

October 31st, 2020: Academy teams play CLTFC’s first-ever games at Bank of America Stadium

Fans were able to cheer for Charlotte in person for the first time at Halloween as the U14 and U17 Academy sides faced Atlanta United.

In front of a crowd of 1,775, the U17 team fought for an impressive 3-2 victory, while the U14s delivered a commendable benchmark performance in a 5-3 defeat.

“It was a great first showing here at Bank of America Stadium, and a great victory for the U17s,” said David Gusler, president of the Mint City Collective supporters group. “We definitely tried to show up for the team, and for the city—and they did us proud.”

December 15th, 2020: Nick Kelly announced as Team President

Days before its first-year anniversary, Charlotte FC made a marquee signing on its executive staff with the arrival of new Team President Nick Kelly.

Kelly comes to Charlotte FC following six years with Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev), where he most recently served as vice president of partnerships, beer culture and community. In this role, Kelly oversaw all company partnerships in the sports, music and entertainment fields across the United States.

“We are thrilled to welcome Nick to the team,” said Tepper. “Nick has a track record of connecting brands with fans across all sports and will bring fresh ideas to Charlotte FC. In the past year, we have assembled a strong sporting staff, led by Zoran Krneta, and have continued to build our business staff. Nick’s hiring comes at the perfect time as we turn our attention to preparing for an exciting first season in 2022.”

December 17th, 2020: Season ticket deposits for 31,000 seats

A year after that overcast Tuesday, when sporting history was made at the Mint Museum, Charlotte FC hit yet another milestone, with the confirmation of season ticket deposits for over 31,000 seats at Bank of America Stadium.

“We’ve been delighted to see the appetite for soccer in our community and the unprecedented response for season ticket deposits,” said Joe LaBue, VP of Ticket Sales & Services at Tepper Sports & Entertainment. “A team relies on the support of its fans for success, and it’s encouraging to know Charlotte FC will have one of the biggest attendances in MLS when play begins at Bank of American Stadium.”