The campaign to bring a Major League Soccer team to Charlotte is winning support from the city's business community. Ally Financial on Friday announced an agreement that would make it the lead sponsor of a Charlotte MLS team.
Carolina Panthers' owner David Tepper recently has stepped up his push to land a team, trying to demonstrate both fan and corporate support. Panthers officials also told The Charlotte Business Journal last week that they have commitments from 60 local companies to buy luxury suites at the stadium for soccer games.
Tepper and team President Tom Glick were scheduled to meet this week with MLS officials in New York. Although a separate Charlotte MLS bid failed two years ago, Tepper and some experts think he may have a better chance.
The MLS announced plans in April to expand to 30 teams in the coming years. Teams from Miami, Nashville, Tennessee, and Austin, Texas, are expected to begin play in the next two years, bringing the total to 27. League officials have said say they'll pick the 28th and 29th expansion teams before the July 31 All-Star Game in Orlando, Florida. Officials say they're in discussions with St. Louis and Sacramento, California, for those two slots.
That leaves one remaining spot. Glick said two weeks ago that he'd like a deal "as soon as possible." A recent Sports Illustrated article said the city is "very much in play" for a franchise.
Among other things, the multi-year deal announced Friday would put Ally's name on the front of team jerseys.
The announcement came on the eve of an International Champions Cup soccer match between England's Arsenal and Italy's Fiorentina that's expected to bring a big crowd to Bank of America Stadium. That game starts at 6 p.m. Saturday and is part of the two-day House of Soccer festival uptown.
Ally is already a sponsor of the summer tournament, which brings some of the world's top soccer clubs together at cities around the world. In a press release, Ally CEO Jeffrey Brown said: "This new partnership signals an exciting time for both Ally and the Charlotte region. We’re humbled to be the first partner alongside David Tepper in his quest, and in addition to expanding our presence in the market, we’re excited about the positive economic impact an MLS team will have in the region.”
A Carolina Panthers' spokesman did not respond to requests for comment. But Tepper said in the press release:
“We couldn’t be more excited about our partnership with Ally. Soccer in the Carolinas is buzzing with excitement and we know that bringing another pro sports team to Charlotte will benefit fans, the city, region and wider community."
If the Panthers were to win a team, it would play at Bank of America Stadium, just a block from Ally Financial's Charlotte Corporate Center.