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2019 was momentous year for local soccer
From youth to MLS, changes abound
Published Tuesday, December 31, 2019 2:24 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Bank of America Stadium was busy as a soccer venue in 2019, but it was a precursor to 2021 when Major League Soccer’s 30th franchise kicks off its inaugural campaign.

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Charlotte soccer saw significant change over the last decade.

Much of it came in 2019, culminating in the Dec. 17 announcement of Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper being awarded the 30th Major League Soccer franchise. Take a look at what else happened in 2019:

1) Jim McGuinness experiment
The Charlotte Independence, a USL Championship club, hired and fired their second head coach in team history in less than seven months. McGuinness, an Irishman known for his success as a Gaelic football player and coach, joined the Independence in December 2018. He replaced Mike Jeffries, who became general manager. McGuinness’s football success did not translate to second division American soccer, with the Jacks going1-7-6, the worst start in club history.

They were also eliminated on penalties from the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup by a lower-tier UPSL side—Florida Soccer Soldiers. Charlotte finished 9-14-11, 13th in the Eastern Conference, marking the first season they did not win at least 10 games, and the second consecutive year they missed the playoffs.

2) Retirement of Super Duck
A Charlotte soccer favorite, Independence defender and captain Bilal Duckett hung up his boots in March. While looking back over his eight-year professional career, which included time in the MLS and USL, a key moment stood out. Duckett thought his career had come to an end on Nov. 21, 2010, when Dartmouth beat Notre Dame 2-1 in overtime in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Duckett now works as a digital consultant in Washington, D.C.

3) Soccer at the Bank | Gold Cup
Bank of America Stadium hosted its third Concacaf Gold Cup group stage doubleheader in June. Canada beat Cuba 7-0 and Mexico beat Martinique 3-2. The doubleheader drew a crowd of 59,283.

El Tri returns to Bank of America Stadium on March 26 to kick off their #MexTour. Opponent and kick off time TBD. They first played in Charlotte in a scoreless draw against Iceland in 2010.  

4) Massive merger
Youth clubs Lake Norman Soccer Club, Carolina Rapids Soccer Club and Discoveries Soccer Club came under one umbrella—the Charlotte Independence Soccer Club. Combined, the club reported roughly 12,000 players. The collaboration took effect in August, impacting recreation level soccer through the Women’s Premier Soccer League and USL teams within the three organizations.

5) Charlotte Lady Eagles soar into Women’s Premier Soccer League
The first-time WPSL participants went 8-1-1, falling in the regional final 3-1 to Pensacola FC. Former player Sam Hope became the first female head coach in franchise history.

6) Soccer at the Bank and the park | International Champions Cup
The annual summer soccer showcase returned to Charlotte for the fifth time with a bonus package. There was a match between international sides Arsenal and Fiorentina, but Romare Bearden Park also became home to the House of Soccer festival as well as five-year contract to keep ICC matches in the Queen City.

The House of Soccer featured Women’s World Cup winners like Megan Rapinoe, who led a clinic with kids from the Creative Player Foundation. The International Champions Cup inaugural Legacy Project community partner in Charlotte uses soccer as a gateway to education for students in grades 4-7.

7) Stumptown Athletic
The minor league soccer team (National Independent Soccer Association) took a different approach to fitting into Charlotte’s soccer sphere—philanthropy. They collaborated with community organizations like 24 Foundation, signing founder Spencer Lueders to a 24-hour contract, donating 5% of ticket sales to the foundation. Lueders, who played soccer at South Carolina, created the 24 Hours of Booty charity cycling and walking event, has raised over $22 million for cancer awareness.   

8) Queens in the Queen City
The U.S. women’s national team FIFA Women’s World Cup victory tour included a story in Charlotte when they beat Korea Republic 2-0 in October. It marked the second time the USWNT played at Bank of America Stadium (Iceland in 2000). The U.S.-KOR friendly drew 30,071—the largest crowd for a USWNT match in North Carolina.

9) Jill Ellis’ historic night
Ellis’ 106th win as USWNT coach set a new record for all-time wins. Their win against Korea Republic at Bank of America Stadium in the penultimate game of Ellis’ time at the helm broke former coach Tony DiCicco’s mark.

10) Second round sorrows
While the Charlotte 49ers (NCAA Division I) and Queens Royals (Division II) advanced to postseason tournaments, both fell in the second round. The 49ers, who lost 2-1 in overtime to Clemson, finished the season 12-4-4, 4-0-3 in Conference USA. The Royals (12-7, 7-3 South Atlantic Conference) lost 1-0 to Lynn University.

11) Major League Soccer arrives
MLS commissioner Don Garber, Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper and Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles announced the 30th franchise on Dec. 17 at the Mint Museum Uptown. Tepper spent a record $325 million franchise fee for the team, which begins play in 2021. It’s Charlotte’s third major league sports franchise, two-thirds of which are owned by Tepper.


A great year for soccer in Charlotte. Thanks for the review and ongoing coverage!
Posted on January 3, 2020

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