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Charlotte signs long-term deal to host international soccer showcase
Five-year pact with International Champions Cup
Published Tuesday, July 9, 2019 4:26 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Relevent Sports Group Chief Operating Officer Aaron Ryan addresses media Tuesday after announcing a five-year deal for Charlotte to host the International Champions Cup soccer tournament at Bank of America Stadium.

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International Champions Cup will be played in Charlotte for the next five years.

The annual soccer summer tournament announced today what Carolina Panthers President Tom Glick described as “a first of its kind” agreement. Charlotte will also host the second annual House of Soccer in Romare Bearden Park on July 19-20, ahead of Arsenal vs. Fiorentina on July 20 at Bank of America Stadium. House of Soccer will include events such as all-star match featuring legends from each club, former MLS players Wes Knight and Mike Harrington, Florencia Galarza of Argentina, as well as Charlotte Hornets and Panthers on July 19 at 7 p.m.

“For the last five years [except 2017], we’ve had the pleasure of having two great European teams playing each other here at Bank of America Stadium, and because we’ve shown up so consistently, we now have the good fortune of being able to lock in the next five years,” Glick said.

Said Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles: “Our city is growing so fast and bringing so many different interests that we’ve got to have that kind of entertainment, and sports are so important to people to have a way to get away and create an environment of fun. That’s what I think the House of Soccer will do, when you talk about music, arts and culture, you’re going to see people come down like a street festival.”

The ICC announcement comes ahead of the Panthers’ visit next week with MLS officials in New York.

“We’ll probably keep a tight group,” Glick said of the delegation. “Myself and [Panthers owner] David Tepper. A couple other folks will go up. We’ll keep a nice, tight, intimate group.”

Tepper made his intention to bring an expansion team to Charlotte clear even before he purchased the NFL team a year ago today. He hired Glick in September. Glick knows his way around MLS, bringing expansion side New York City FC into the league in 2015 under City Football Group, which owns English Premier League champions Manchester City. MLS Commissioner Don Garber confirmed in April the league will expand to 30 teams. The entry fee for clubs 28 and 29 is $200 million—$50 million more than the 2017 franchise fee for the 25th team, which a different ownership group in Charlotte bid for.

Inter Miami and Nashville SC join the leauge in 2020, followed by Austin FC in 2021 to give MLS 27 teams. Sacramento and St. Louis ownership groups will present to the league’s expansion committee next week. MLS’s board of governors will meet in Orlando during its annual All-Star game on July 31.

Artist rendering of the House of Soccer plaza for the International Champions Cup in Charlotte's Center City.

“The bid process is a fluid process,” Glick said. “I’m not even sure that a formal bid process is the right way to describe it. It’s very clear to Major League Soccer executives, the commissioner and the owners that we have an interest. We have a great case, a very strong case. We’re looking forward to continuing to tell them the good news about soccer and our preparedness to have a high performing Major League Soccer club here.”

Glick noted the agreement to host ICC adds “momentum” to Charlotte’s soccer initiative.

“It’s more proof points,” Glick said. “Charlotte has been performing as a soccer market for many years. The reason that we’ve been able to do this five-year agreement with the ICC is because the last five years have been so successful. It’s the right bet. Maybe you can even say it’s a safe bet. It’s very predictable. We know that fans are going to turn up. They’re going to be passionate. They’re going to support. It’s an incredible win for our city and our region to lock this into the next five years.”

Charlotte’s initial ICC lineup included Arsenal and Roma, but the latter had to be replaced due to Europa qualification scheduling. However, organizer Relevent Sports Group Chief Operating Officer Aaron Ryan said, the transition was swift.

“We anticipated that could potentially happen,” he said. “The great news about Relevent Sports Group and specifically our executive chairman is our relationships with international soccer, not only leagues, but also teams around the world is world class and amongst the best. Our ability to pivot in this particular unfortunate situation for Roma was really fortunate.”

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