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Charlotte Expects To Land MLS Team, With Announcement As Soon As Friday

Panthers owner David Tepper talks to reporters in 2018 at Bank of America Stadium. Two officials said Monday they expect Major League Soccer will award Tepper its 30th franchise by the end of this week.

Major League Soccer says its Board of Governors will discuss “potential expansion markets, including Charlotte” at its meeting Thursday. 

Charlotte City Council member James Mitchell, who chairs the city's economic development committee, expects billionaire Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper to get that new team, over Las Vegas and Phoenix.

"If an announcement could be made at the board meeting on Thursday, that would be great," Mitchell says. "Because it would then allow us to put a process in place that we think the citizens can get behind and support as well."

Two officials familiar with negotiations say they expect a formal announcement in Charlotte as early as Friday.

MLS spokesman Dan Courtemanche says any announcement about expansion will be held in the city of the new team.  But he says there is no timetable for awarding a new team.

Charlotte City Council has been meeting in closed session to discuss taxpayer-funded improvements to Bank of America Stadium, where the new team would play.

Mitchell says that a large majority of council members support giving Tepper as much as $110 million in public money to help Tepper land the team.  

The money would come from tourism taxes, which include taxes on hotel and motel rooms, as well as restaurant and bar tabs. By law, that money is restricted for tourism projects.

Mitchell says council members considered spending more money on soccer, but council members wanted to make sure there would still be enough tourism dollars to renovate the Spectrum Center and Discovery Place.
"So I know there was a big number out there, $150 to $200 million," Mitchell says. "I just don't see council to be able to allocate that much to MLS. Yes, we want it. Yes, it’s our No. 1 priority. Yes, I think the votes are there to support it. But I think most of us are comfortable participating with the tourism fund between $100 and $110 million."
If an announcement is made this week, Mitchell says a public hearing on a tentative incentives deal could be conducted Dec. 9, and that Council could vote on them Dec. 16.

Three new council members were sworn in Monday night. But Mitchell says there is already a clear majority of council members who have already tentatively agreed on incentives.

MLS officials have said Charlotte is one of three cities vying for the 30th team, along with Las Vegas and Phoenix. But MLS Commissioner Don Garber said last month that Charlotte is at "the front of the line." 


Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.
David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.