Panthers owner David Tepper has been talking about bringing an MLS team to Charlotte since before he was the Panthers owner.
Now he’s going to get his chance to make his pitch directly to MLS.
According to Brian Straus of SI.com, Tepper’s group is expected to meet with the domestic soccer league’s expansion committee (which includes familiar NFL faces Jonathan Kraft and Arthur Blank) in mid-July.
“We’ve had a lot of engagement already,” Panthers team president Tom Glick said. “We’ve been consulting with them and doing our homework here, and we’re now in a position to say that this is going to work incredibly well and we can play earlier or later to best suit their needs. We’ll be meeting with the commissioner and perhaps the expansion committee very soon.”
Competing groups from Sacramento and St. Louis are scheduled to meet with the expansion committee the week of July 15, before the league’s board of governors meets for the All-Star Game in Orlando. Unless the expansion committee plans to gather more than once, it makes sense that the Charlotte presentation will be made then as well.
While MLS has long preferred soccer-specific stadiums, the Panthers can offer Bank of America Stadium without waiting for construction. They’ll be renovating the place soon anyway, and have sent out surveys to locals regarding soccer-specific seating options.
While MLS might like a smaller building that doesn’t need tarps, they might also enjoy having someone in their club who is already the richest single owner in the NFL.
And Tepper is clearly not one to dawdle. When he was in the process of buying the Panthers, he threatened to pull out of that bidding in mid-stream, only to be approved for the sale despite offering Jerry Richardson the lowest bid of the finalists.
By having a building ready to go, and cash on hand, he could put a team on the field as soon as 2021.
“We’re in their hands on the process. We will now be emphasizing that we are turn-key,” Glick said.
Glick was hired by Tepper in part because of his familiarity with the soccer industry, having worked for Manchester City as they became one of the biggest brands in world sport.
The Panthers also just put nearly 60,000 fans in Bank of America Stadium for Gold Cup games Sunday (between Mexico-Martinique and Canada-Cuba), suggesting the market is ready to support the team, whenever MLS is ready.
Tepper clearly is, and has been for some time.