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Panthers, soccer advocates host MLS focus groups on Feb. 6
Forum seeks feedback on local interest
 
Published Wednesday, January 30, 2019 4:50 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

A pair of focus groups will convene in Charlotte on Feb. 6 to discuss interest in Major League Soccer. Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper has said he's interested in bringing a team to Charlotte.

Charlotte is talking about Major League Soccer again.

Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper made his interest in an expansion team known prior to officially purchasing the NFL franchise in July. Two weeks after a Jan. 15 closed-door meeting with Charlotte media, the Panthers put out a call through Charlotte Soccer Academy for two focus groups on Feb. 6. Each session will last approximately 90 minutes, and RSVP capacity has been filled.

“It’s the fastest-growing sport in the country,” said Charlotte Soccer Academy Executive Director Brad Wylde. “There are more kids between the ages of 6-16 who are playing soccer now than any other sport in the country. It would be a huge opportunity to bring Major League Soccer here, just in terms of the chance for players to come in for a club and look onwards and upwards.”

Hiring former soccer executive Tom Glick as Panthers president last September indicated Tepper meant business about an MLS franchise. Glick spent six years with City Football Group, which included extensive involvement with 2018 English Premier League champion Manchester City. His previous employer also owns MLS’s New York City FC, which Glick helped launch in 2015 as interim president. CFG owns six top-division clubs in England, the United States, Australia, Spain, Japan and Uruguay.

Tepper said Panthers officials are engaged in ongoing discussions with MLS about expanding to Charlotte, as previously reported by The Post. The league’s expansion plan includes Miami and Nashville in 2020, Austin, Texas in 2021, and a 28th franchise a year later.

Wylde sees adding MLS to Charlotte’s footprint as an aspirational opportunity for youth club players, who have participated in clinics hosted by clubs like Liverpool FC during the International Champions Cup last July.

“That has always been our dream,” Wylde said. “We start as young as 4 years old. For the 4-year-old coming to CSA and looking all the way up and seeing a professional team, that would be their goals and dreams and aspirations to get to that level.”

Wylde, an England native, played college soccer at Catawba and went onto play for several United Soccer League sides, including the Charlotte Eagles, now a USL League 2 team. He took the point with South Charlotte Soccer Association—now Charlotte Soccer Academy—in 2005, helping the organization grow from roughly 200 players to over 6,500. The academy encompasses seven sections in the Charlotte area, with South Charlotte as the main hub.

“Over the years, we have merged with other clubs,” Wylde said. “In 2009, we merged with Charlotte Soccer Club to create Charlotte Soccer Academy. We’ve had the opportunity to take our brand and merge it around other areas in the city. We have done four additional mergers since then, which has created the club as we have it today.”

While soccer remains the most popular youth sport, a Sports & Fitness Industry Association study revealed a 14 percent decline among 6- to 12-year-olds over the last three years to 2.3 million players, according to The New York Times.

 

Comments

3 major league franchises really puts Charlotte on everyone's map. I would go to these games.
Posted on January 31, 2019
 
Bbbrrrriiinngg it! Lots of soccer fans here
Posted on January 31, 2019
 
Would buy season tickets !!
Posted on January 31, 2019
 

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