Garber: Charlotte MLS Expansion Bid At The "Front Of The Line"
MLS Commissioner Don Garber this weekend gave a "clearer indication than ever that Charlotte is in the driver's seat to become the league's 30th team" as MLS expansion "continues at a breakneck pace," according to Grant Wahl of SI.com. Garber during his State of the League address Friday said, "There are three markets we're looking at that our expansion committee has been engaging: Charlotte, Las Vegas and Phoenix. It's fair to say that Charlotte has done a lot of work to move their bid really to the front of the line." He added Charlotte's appeal starts with Panthers Owner David Tepper, "who's a very passionate guy about sports, very passionate about Charlotte, and is reminding us that the league didn't really see what Atlanta would become." Garber: "There's a lot of things happening in Charlotte that are very similar to things that are happening in Atlanta in terms of the diversity of the fanbase and a lot of the corporate energy." Garber said that while expansion is "not yet a done deal" for Charlotte, an "official announcement will likely come in the 'next number of months'" (SI.com, 11/8).
GRAND ENTRANCE: In Charlotte, Erik Spanberg wrote Tepper is "expected to pay as much" as $300-325M for an expansion team, which would be a "record for MLS." Sacramento and St. Louis, added this year, "will pay entry fees" of $200M each (BIZJOURNALS.com, 11/9). Charlotte-based WCNC-NBC's Rob Hughes noted by offering "tourism tax revenue," the city "can contribute money to help David Tepper in his bid to land an MLS franchise without costing" local taxpayers (WCNC, 11/10).
LOCATION, LOCATION: ESPN.com's Jeff Carlisle wrote one "stumbling block has been the Charlotte bid's plan to play at Bank of America Stadium." The venue's 75,523 capacity is "much larger than what MLS usually prefers for an expansion team's home." However, Garber "indicated that Tepper has been pointing to the success of Atlanta United" sharing Mercedes-Benz Stadium with the Falcons as an "example of the potential upside" (ESPN.com, 11/8). YAHOO SPORTS' Doug McIntyre wrote it is "abundantly clear that the league wants to be in Charlotte, which would fill a hole between Atlanta and DC in the league's national footprint in a market that has long been a youth and college soccer hotbed." All that is left is for Tepper to "close the deal." McIntyre: "There have been questions raised about how viable a market Charlotte is, but I covered a Bayern Munich-Inter Milan International Champions Cup match there in 2016, and came away thoroughly impressed by the city and its soccer fans" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/10).
POWER OF EXPANSION: Garber said the league's expansion efforts have been "driven by these incredibly passionate owners that have great vision and really believe" in what MLS "can be" in the U.S. and in Canada. Garber: "Thirty teams in Major League Soccer at some point soon is just going to really speak to the growth of this league, and really the power of this sport in this part of the world." Garber said players have made MLS the "league of choice, and when you put all that together, it drives a lot of growth and opportunity" ("MLS Cup," ABC, 11/10). Garber said celebrities and star athletes from other sports investing in the league have "a lot of places they can invest their money and they're looking at professional sports and they're looking at Major League Soccer as a league that could drive a lot of financial opportunity" ("Power Lunch," CNBC, 11/8).