David Tepper steps up Charlotte MLS expansion bid

Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper will step up his ongoing quest to secure a Major League Soccer expansion team in Charlotte by meeting with league commissioner Don Garber and MLS’ expansion committee next month.

MLS has announced it will expand to 30 teams and Sacramento and St Louis are considered overwhelming favorites to land the expansion slots for the league’s 28th and 29th franchises.

For now, this leaves just one spot remaining and Tepper’s Charlotte group has quietly increased its efforts this year. According to Sports Illustrated, MLS officials visited the 75,523-seat Bank of America Stadium, the home of Tepper’s Panthers of the National Football League, in February, while team representatives have also met with league officials multiple times in New York City.

“We’ve had a lot of engagement already,” Panthers team president Tom Glick told SI. “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.

“This has been building for the past year,” Glick added. “Everything we’ve seen has given us great conviction. Part of this has been convincing ourselves that this is going to work, and part of this is showing the commissioner, the board of governors, and the expansion committee that we can bring an incredible new club to MLS that will add to this amazing growth story.”

Despite the rousing success of Atlanta United, who have set multiple league attendance records in the 73,000-seat Mercedes-Benz Stadium, MLS favors teams playing smaller soccer-specific stadiums. So it is unclear if a bid based around playing at Bank of America Stadium would prove a barrier to entry.

The venue, however, held two Concacaf Gold Cup games on Sunday, and the announced crowd of 59,283 indicates strong local support for soccer.

Other leading candidates for MLS’s 30th spot are Las Vegas, which has two separate bids, and Raleigh, North Carolina.