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MLS launches new sports era in Charlotte as city, David Tepper land soccer expansion team

Hannah Smoot, Alison Kuznitz, Alaina Getzenberg and Scott Fowler, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Soccer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- MLS is ushering in a new sports era for Charlotte.

It awarded the 30th Major League Soccer team to Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper on Tuesday, as MLS Commissioner Don Garber joined Tepper and Mayor Vi Lyles at Mint Museum Uptown for the long-anticipated announcement.

The event capped months of frenzied speculation and competition as other cities vied for the expansion bid. Garber made the move official by inviting Tepper to the podium, saying: "It is now my pleasure to welcome Charlotte to Major League Soccer."

A jubilant Tepper burst into song, channeling Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel": "Since I been in Charlotte ... I found a new place to live ... It's going to be the greatest city for MLS to be in."

Charlotte beat out Las Vegas and Phoenix for the team. "It's going to be a new Charlotte," Tepper said. "We're the hot city."

Lyles has told MLS that the city plans to spend $110 million in support of the team. She said that could be used for a number of the city's plans with Tepper, including development of the former Eastland Mall site or the "Gateway District," which extends northeast from Bank of America Stadium.

 

The soccer team will play at the Panthers' stadium and its headquarters and practice facilities will be at the former Eastland Mall site in east Charlotte.

"David really wanted the club," Garber said.

The team will begin competing in 2021, before Sacramento and St. Louis.

Charlotte met the league's three key criteria for an expansion team, Garber said: a committed owner, public partnerships and support from the corporate community. The league also wanted a downtown stadium, which he called "a real formula to drive our success."

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