Location, Location, Location!

Let’s start here, to start any successful sports franchise the key word is stability, can it last and the answer I believe in this instance pertaining to a Major League Soccer franchise in Charlotte is yes. Let’s take a look at this, Charlotte already plays host to 3 major professional sports in America with the Charlotte Hornets, The Carolina Panthers, and lastly the Charlotte Knights. Charlotte has a population of above 792,000 citizens, which makes it possible for sporting franchises to thrive, with neighboring cities like Raleigh, and Greensboro who combined have over 350,000 citizens themselves. These numbers have aided in successful franchises as mentioned above with the Panthers (top 10) and Hornets (top 20) in attendance. The average MLS attendance per match is around 15,000, which the North Carolina triangle as it’s called can clearly support.

Just because a city has the population to support something doesn’t mean they will, this also ties into the location and what it’s roots within a sport are tied to, the North Carolina triangle (Charlotte, Raleigh, and Greensboro) all are very rich in soccer tradition with over 10,000 kids participating in club soccer. Another thing that should be mentioned when speaking about the triangle area you also cannot forget to mention the college soccer scene with 3 ACC Schools within 30 minutes of each other and a top 5 national program in the heart of Charlotte. The Southeast region is a hotbed to be captured by the MLS with no teams South of DC until Atlanta (2017) and Charlotte has the potential to be the Portland of the east.

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Voice for a Venue

In order to have any type of franchise let alone a successful one every sport has to have one thing, a home. The new craze in the US within the MLS is soccer specific stadiums, Portland, NY, Kansas City, Philadelphia, just as some examples. This is probably the biggest hump aspiring franchises have to get over to be that much closer (especially in the independences case) to make the step up into the MLS. The Independence are currently playing their matches all over the place, from Ramblewood Park, to UNCC’s college park, to Memorial Stadium. The temporary plan is for the Independence to play at Ramblewood, while the long-term future is a massive upgrade to almost 80-year-old memorial stadium located near the heart of Uptown Charlotte a truly beautiful location.

The first step in acquiring a permanent home is the renovation process to memorial stadium, which already has had over 2million in renovations approved so that it is a proper soccer stadium with a full sized pitch. Once this is finished, and the team can have an actual home opposed to being nomads throughout the Charlotte area it will be much easier to start gaining a fan base, once this very small step is accomplished they can then map out the massive renovation needed for memorial, for an idea of how much the cost would be, DC United recently had a new stadium approved and will cost upwards around 300million. Memorial Stadium now, seats about 12,000, which is a decent size for a USL team, add to that get some backing and before you know it you have 20,000 seats, which is the average capacity for these new soccer specific stadiums in the MLS. Memorial is a perfect location for an MLS franchise with a beautiful view of Uptown but realistically the team won’t be playing there until 2017 and an MLS franchise would bring even more revenue to the city of Charlotte, and the team in it’s first season have already caught the eyes of business leaders in Charlotte and have already assisted exploring what the city can do to bring a team to the Queen City.

Charlotte Soccer hitting the fan!

Let’s get to the heart of any successful franchise, it’s fan base. Teams like Sacramento and now MLS Orlando City have built through its fans, something the Independence can learn from. The Independence currently have a supports group (Jack’s Militia) these passionate fans could be the backbone of this future MLS franchise everyone that watches the MLS know Portland, Seattle, Kansas City, even the fans are amazing to watch aside from the game. The Queen City also has a fairly large American Outlaws Chapter, who is the die-hard supports for our American National team. People see that being apart of these groups is fun, it has a certain draw to it that no other sport really has, the singing the drums, the flairs, it’s unique in it’s own way, and these grass root groups are drawing attention to the franchise and you know what they say, no publicity is bad publicity.

Going away from the die-hard fans, are the people who just love the game and who would attend an MLS match because they love the sport. In the past year Bank of America Stadium hosted an international friendly between two well-known European sides AC Milan and Liverpool FC, this match attracted 70,000 fans alone for a single friendly in Charlotte. Next month the same stadium is pegged for an international double header, as well as another expected sell out for an international friendly for the reigning premier league Champions Chelsea, and the French League Champions PSG. The International friendly from last season alone made the city 8.7 million in revenue. I know a week in week out MLS match doesn’t have the draw as these international fixtures, but it does show one very important thing, there is a strong market of soccer fans in the Charlotte area. The Independence this year have sold about 1,000 season tickets in its debut season, a figure that will more than likely grow as the team settles into one location and the word of mouth starts to generate a “buzz” around the city like the name change for the Charlotte Hornets did in it’s return this season, and as the buzz continues to grow by word of mouth with the fan base an MLS franchise gets that much closer to the Queen City.

Charlotte Soccer

I am new to blogging so hang in there with me as I write about my passion for soccer. I have loved the game of soccer since I was eight years old and began playing for my first competitive club. I played soccer all throughout my childhood and through my teenage years in high school. This past fall I was fortunate enough to be a part of the Radford University Men’s Soccer program as we won a Big South title. Now that my days of playing are over I am limited to pickup games with friends and just watching as the sport grows.

My passion project is going to be a push to bring a MLS club to the city of Charlotte, North Carolina. Currently the closest team for an MLS fan in southwest VA to go watch would be the Columbus Crew in Ohio, which is over a five-hour journey from Radford. Charlotte currently has a semi-professional soccer team that plays in the USL. My goal is to take the current team and find way to expand and build a fan base to turn this club into an MLS team. I will use Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to try and build a fan base and gain creative ideas. My blog will serve as an outlet to share some of the ideas and thoughts I gain from my followers as well as continue talk about soccer, the city and why Charlotte would make a perfect home for a new franchise.