Sources: Major League Soccer to announce Charlotte as newest franchise

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) -- Sources confirmed to WBTV Thursday that Major League Soccer (MLS) will announce Charlotte as the newest franchise. The announcement is expected to happen on December 17.

Expansion and the city of Charlotte were topics set to be discussed during a Major League Soccer Board of Governors meeting Thursday in Brooklyn.

Previously, an MLS spokesperson said no timeline had been finalized on an announcement about which city/proposal will be granted a franchise.

No announcement was expected to be made in Brooklyn. Courtemanche said any announcement about a new franchise would take place from that city.

“Any announcement of a future MLS expansion club will take place in the city of the new team. A timeline to announce Major League Soccer’s 30th club has not been finalized.”

“Multiple potential expansion markets, including Charlotte, will be discussed at the league’s Board of Governors meetings on Dec. 5,” MLS Executive Vice President of Communications Dan Courtemanche wrote in an email.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber previously told reporters that Charlotte had moved its way to the front of the line with its bid for an MLS team. After Thursday’s Brooklyn meeting, Garber spoke more about the future of MLS in the city of Charlotte.

"We reviewed several expansion markets today, and the group from Charlotte, including David Tepper and Tom Glick, met with the board and made a very impressive presentation. It’s the first time presentation. It’s the first time David Tepper has met the full MLS board, he has met with the MLS expansion committee over the past year or so,” Garber said. “We are in very very advanced discussions with David and his group.”

Although no formal approval was granted Thursday, Garber said that the MLS Board authorized the MLS Expansion Committee to enter into what he expects to be final negotiations with David Tepper to have Charlotte be the league’s 30th team.

The existing issues with the MLS move to Charlotte have to do with the stadium where the potential team would play, according to Garber.

“The remaining issues with Charlotte are related to their stadium, and ensuring that we’re going to be able to put together a dynamic in that stadium that will be up to the standards of all of our current soccer stadiums and certainly up to the standards of the great environments that we have in our two NFL stadiums when we play in Seattle and in Atlanta,” Garber said.

WBTV has previously reported that city council has been presented with options to renovate Bank of America Stadium into a soccer-specific stadium for a future MLS team. The proposal from Carolina Panther’s owner David Tepper’s team would require council to authorize $100 million or more in tourism tax funds.

Sources told WBTV that council wouldn’t vote on the renovation package at Monday night’s swearing-in ceremony but plan to in the very near future. Other sources have told WBTV that council would not vote on the proposal until it is confirmed that the MLS is awarding the bid to Charlotte.

Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles tweeted a statement about Thursday’s news, stating that city officials nor staff were attending the meetings and that decisions made at the meeting would be premature.

Courtemanche also said it wasn’t unusual for expansion to be talked about during the board of governors meeting as it had been on the agenda at each of the previous meetings for the last 15 years.

On Thursday, Garber spoke about why Charlotte is an attractive market for MLS.

“We are very, very bullish about the Charlotte market. We believe it’s a growing city on the rise, and one that’s just got so much opportunity for us to be able to continue to expand our league,” Garber said. “We’ve got issues that need to get resolved as it relates to the stadium. We’ve got confidence in David Tepper and his management group, and confidence in the city leaders that they’ll continue to want to support the efforts to bring Major League Soccer to Charlotte.”

Garber also spoke more about the stadium situation for Charlotte’s expansion bid.

“It really is related to how to ensure that the stadium is up to the MLS standards, that it satisfies our stadium guidelines. There’s a wide variety of things that they’ve already worked on that need to be finalized,” Garber said. “Ensuring that the supporter section is proper, ensuring that they have the proper tunnels, that they have the right environments for locker rooms, the competitive environments and to ensure that they’re able to manage how they would size the stadium, which has not been finalized yet. In the event that they don’t end up with 70,000 fans a game, if they end up with fewer than that, how would we manage that.”

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