Major League Soccer has seen a recent string of expansion successes, from Atlanta United’s record crowds to LAFC’s star-studded ownership group and on-field roster to Minnesota United’s top teir new stadium.
With several new teams set to launch in the next few seasons, Charlotte is making its case to take over that mantle.
Billionaire financier David Tepper, who also owns the Carolina Panthers, paid an MLS-record $325 million expansion fee to secure the team in December 2019. While the coronavirus pandemic has pushed back its launch until 2022, that has not slowed down Charlotte’s momentum.
Tepper Sports & Entertainment President Tom Glick, who joined the organization from soccer global powerhouse City Football Group in 2018, spoke with Front Office Sports about the club’s efforts as it launched its brand identity.
Front Office Sports: How have you had to pivot the brand launch amid the pandemic?
Tom Glick: When we originally drew this up it was a big party with a few thousand people gathering together. As you know, we’ve had to pivot but I think where we’ve gotten to is a great place.
We’ll be hosting a live show where we’ll reveal our name, colors, and crest. We’ll also have some special guests and some fans on as well. No one will be in the studio or building, but they’ll be online with us.
FOS: What has been the process in building that brand?
TG: Our fans have been at the heart of it in terms of what we’ve created – that’s been by design. Going back to November and December of last year, we’ve had a chance to speak to thousands of Charlotteans and Carolina soccer fans in our city and region about what they feel the name should be and what would best represent our city, its rich history and its ambition
This is a place where tons of young people are moving for great jobs and quality of life. So a new MLS club is a perfect way to bring all those folks together and give them something in common to which they can belong.
FOS: How does launching the brand translate to the business side?
TG: When we go live, our site with Fanatics will have gear available immediately.
We’ve been really fortunate with seat deposits as well. We expect those to see another jump. We’ve been trying to make it really easy for people to do that and get their deposit in. We’ll soon start doing a seat selection process later this summer into early fall.
Having all of those work together in unison was really important to us so that people could not only capture their excitement but can have fun with the process of building up to it, they can act on it, and feel like they can get deeper involved.
FOS: Do you have an estimate regarding what sort of ticket or merchandise sales you’ll see?
TG: I don’t want to make predictions but we expect strong interest. We have a great base already, and we’re quite optimistic on how this could help be the next big building block to the foundation of our club.
FOS: How many ticket deposits do you have now?
TG: We have deposits for north of 25,000 seats.
FOS: You already have the jersey front sponsorship locked in with Ally – does launching the brand facilitate more conversations?
TG: We have some partnerships that have closed and are under contract but we haven’t announced them yet. But yes, having this identity out there should only add to that interest and excitement.
FOS: MLS formally announced the club would be moving its launch from 2021 to 2022. What will that mean for the organization?
TG: On reflection, I really feel this is a smart decision for us. It was always going to be an accelerated timelines and we’ve done really well and made huge progress. In many ways we could have been ready to go, but I think in this case a little bit more time will suit us well and we have a chance to take advantage of that and further create with the fans the our club. Things like an extraordinary match day experience and home field advantage. It gives us a chance to refine and get all of our stadium enhancements done and done on schedule to thoughtfully build that out. That also will let us build our playing squad and coaching staff. Time flies and I think we’re going to be in 2022 in no time. But this is a case where the extra time will lead to extra anticipation.