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Charlotte FC

Large crowds follow The Crown at classic if dated stadium

A fan’s guide – the club from formation to today

An MLS expansion team introduced in 2022, Charlotte FC is a soccer phenomenon. Attracting the second-highest attendance of the whole league that first season, CLTFC repeated the feat in 2023 and 2024 despite only modest success on the pitch and few genuine stars in the team.

Based at Bank of America Stadium in a major financial metropolis, Charlotte FC embraced the Queen City’s regal and fiscal heritage when devising their identity. Nicknamed The Crown, as depicted on the crest, CLTFC shares the same stadium and shade of blue as the Carolina Panthers, whose NFL franchise began in 1993.

While the Panthers owes their development to their original owner and founder Jerry Richardson, so billionaire hedge fund manager David Tepper brought MLS to Charlotte, shortly after buying the Panthers from the later disgraced Richardson in 2018.

While the Panthers owes their development to their original owner and founder Jerry Richardson, so billionaire hedge fund manager David Tepper brought MLS to Charlotte, shortly after buying the Panthers from the later disgraced Richardson in 2018.

Soccer came late to the largest city in North Carolina, early home of NASCAR, whose Hall of Fame sits a few blocks from Bank of America Stadium in Uptown Charlotte. For a while, Charlotte Motor Speedway was earmarked for the site before the Ericsson Stadium, later sponsored by Bank of America, was built in the mid-1990s.

The first local soccer team of note, Carolina Lightnin’, arrived on the wave of enthusiasm for the sport in the wake of Pelé at Cosmos. A star of the same NASL era, maverick forward Rodney Marsh, who had recently led Tampa Bay Rowdies to back-to-back Soccer Bowls, was brought in as coach for the team’s debut season in the second-tier American Soccer League in 1981.

After hosting weeks of open tryouts, Marsh spotted an unlikely prospect in Cuba-born Tony Suarez. The Lightnin’ – their name chosen by readers of the Charlotte Observer – made the playoffs after winning the four-team Freedom Conference. Suarez was top scorer.

Then the biggest outdoor sports arena in Charlotte, American Legion Memorial Stadium had been built as part of Roosevelt’s New Deal initiative to regenerate the country following the Great Depression. From the 1930s onwards, it had mainly hosted high school football, most notably the annual Shrine Bowl between the best players in the Carolinas.

By the time the Lightnin’ moved in, Memorial Stadium had added an upper tier to increase capacity to 20,000. Despite imaginative promotions such as car giveaways and Beach Boys shows, it was still welcoming spectators in the low thousands for most ASL games. This all changed on September 18, 1981 when Charlotte hosted the Championship final between the Lightnin’ and the previous club coached by Rodney Marsh, New York United.

As New York Apollo, United had been prominent in the ASL during the Cosmos era but this would prove to be the last game in their history. Behind to United on the hour in front of a crowd of 20,163, the Lightnin’ soon leveled the score, the goal coming from former Sligo Rovers midfielder Don Tobin, around whom Marsh had built his team.

The hosts then prevailed in extra-time, former Hartford Bicentennials striker Hugh O’Neill hitting the winner, Marsh justifiably elated at having slayed his former employers with a team he had created from scratch. The late decider had come from a corner set piece Marsh’s men had been working on all year.

With the Lightnin’ on the up but the ASL in severe decline, Marsh persuaded England legend Bobby Moore to come on board, and the World Cup-winning captain of 1966 would play the last games of his illustrious career in Charlotte in 1983. He was 42.

The U.S. soccer boom over, both the Lightnin’ and the ASL soon folded, and Marsh headed back to the Florida sun of Tampa.

In the twilight of their playing careers in the later 1970s, both Marsh and Moore had starred at Fulham, the club commonly considered as their last staging post – in fact, it was Charlotte in the early 1980s, and the rebellious Marsh, his career littered with bad-tempered farewells, would always look back fondly at his time in North Carolina.

Renovated three times between 2010 and 2021, Memorial Stadium today accommodates Charlotte Independence, founded in 2014 and soon acquiring USL Pro franchise rights from the Charlotte Eagles. Now based at Sportsplex at Matthews in Charlotte’s outer belt, the Eagles had been formed in 1991 as a division of the Christian Missionary Athletes International.

In the early 2000s, playing at various high school and track and field pitches, the Eagles reached the second-tier A-League but today occupies in the fourth-tier, semi-professional USL League Two, along with Charlotte Independence II in the South Atlantic Division. An affiliate of Charlotte Independence but operating separately, this club from Rock Hill was created from the merger of Discoveries SC, Carolina Rapids, and Lake Norman SC, in 2019.

It plays at Manchester Meadows Soccer Complex, whose two synthetic soccer pitches has spectator seating. Confusingly, it is also referred to as Charlotte Independence Soccer Club, sharing the same historic crest as The Jacks of USL League One.

Named after the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, whose date of 1775 underscores the figure of Captain James Jack riding to deliver it to Philadelphia, Charlotte Independence predates Charlotte FC by five years. Making the Round of 16 in the U.S. Open Cup in 2015, giving MLS stalwarts Chicago Fire a tough game barely nine months after being founded, Independence set out its stall early on.

Working with Mecklenburg County, the club helped finance the renovation of Memorial Stadium, its ten-year lease dated from 2021. Crowd numbers, however, remain around 2,000.

By 2022, there was local competition, too. As attempts by Charlotte Independence and Charlotte Motor Speedway to create a credible MLS franchise faded, Pittsburgh billionaire David Tepper decided to expand his sports empire. Having snapping up a 5% share in his hometown Steelers in 2009, the top hedge fund manager swooped in to buy the Carolina Panthers in 2018.

A year later, he placed a bid for an MLS expansion team, awarded to him that December. Three months later came the pandemic.

Much of what was needed, however, was already in place. Bank of America Stadium had opened as Ericsson Stadium in 1996 and had already accommodated crowds of 60,000 for the International Champions Cup, prestigious showcase preseason games involving Liverpool, Chelsea and Milan, as well as international matches involving Mexico.

There was, without question, a hunger for soccer in Charlotte, which is why it was on a list of potential MLS cities when the whole shebang started after the 1994 World Cup. Fittingly, the official presentation for the Charlotte franchise took place at the Mint Museum, that once housed the Charlotte Mint, established in the 1830s to serve America’s first gold mine. Some 7,000 deposits for season tickets were received within 24 hours. Supporters’ groups – Mint City Collective, Blue Furia, Southbound & Crown – soon formed.

Further announcements took place during the pandemic, the launch date for Charlotte FC put back to 2022. The team would adopt a shade of blue similar to the Carolina Panthers and use the lower bowl and club sections of Bank of America Stadium except for major matches.

One such was the club’s home MLS debut in February 2022, against LA Galaxy, for which 74,479 marked a record crowd for a single match in league history. The only major success on the pitch, however, was for an international friendly against Chelsea that July, 52,673 witnessing CLTFC win on penalties.

Settling on former Aston Villa manager Dean Smith for 2024, Charlotte FC improved on their two previous seasons despite the loss of key striker Karol Świderski. Bringing in players from their reserve team Crown Legacy of MLS Next Pro, which also plays at Sportsplex at Matthews, Charlotte FC started strongly with a 1-0 win over New York City in front of 62,291 at Bank of America Stadium. 

The game was notable for the appearance of Burundi-born Nimfasha Berchimas, two days past his 16th birthday. In 2023, the Crown Legacy forward had been the youngest U.S. player to score at the U-17 World Cup since Freddy Adu in 2003.

Two goals from young Israeli international Liel Abada, a recent regular for Celtic, helped CLTFC overcome local rivals Atlanta 3-2 before a crowd of 61,209 in Georgia as a playoff place beckoned in the summer of 2024.


The field of dreams – and the story behind it

Selected to stage a semifinal and the third-place playoff at Copa América 2024, Bank of America Stadium feels grandiose. A classic open bowl in the style of the L.A. Coliseum which hosted the Olympic Games of 1932 and 1984, the originally named Ericsson Stadium was built for NFL’s Carolina Panthers, hence the seat color scheme of light blue and huge statues of big cats flanking the entrance. 

Renovated two decades after its opening in 1996, huge video boards and a surround sound system installed, the stadium was further adapted to soccer with an artificial FieldTurf surface before CLTFC’s arrival in 2022.

Full capacity is now 74,867 although this reduces to 38,000 for most soccer games, for which only the lower bowl and club sections are used.

Charlotte FC supporters’ groups stand behind first-come, first-served sections behind the East Goal (S Mint Street), 119-124 and 227-231. Away fans are allocated section 254 at the opposite end. If Atlanta is in town, visiting supporters are likely to spill over into several sections alongside.

The best seats are overlooking the team benches, below the press box in sections 341-346 and 129-134, and above the sideline opposite, 109-115 and 313-318.

If the upper bowl is open, and the game kicks off earlier the afternoon, then shade can be a welcome relief as the stadium has no roof and is open to the elements. Sections 530-534 should be protected from the sun by the huge video board.

Even though it only dates back to the mid-1990s, Bank of America Stadium feels like a throwback to a different era, and plans are afoot for further renovation. New seating, scoreboards, video signage and exterior screens for watch parties are all in the pipeline.


Going to the stadium – tips and timings

Charlotte Douglas International Airport is six miles (10km) west of the central business district. The Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) operates two bus routes from the airport terminus: Route 5-Airport Sprinter to Uptown Charlotte, which is where the stadium is situated, and Route 60-Tyvola Road to LYNX Tyvola Station on the city’s light-rail network. Both run every 30mins.

Route 5 calls at College St & Brooklyn Village Ave (20min journey time), two blocks from Bank of America Stadium, on its way to the main hub of Charlotte Transportatation Center 30mins away.

Taking Route 60 to LYNX Tyvola Station (25min journey time) puts you on the same blue line as Brooklyn Vlllage 7 stops away, but Route 5 drops you slightly closer. The blue LYNX line is convenient if you’re traveling from Charlotte Transportatation Center, 2 stops from Brooklyn Village.

The CATS-pass app allows you to buy One Way and One Day tickets, though they’re the same price if purchased from a ticket vending machine (cash or cards) – $3 for an Express bus, $2.20 for regular bus or LYNX rail, $6.60 for a Day Pass.

A taxi from Charlotte Douglas International Airport to Uptown Charlotte should cost $25. Crown Cab (704-334-6666) accepts cards and has apps on the Apple and Android networks.

There are free Park & Ride lots at the outer stations of the LYNX blue rail line, meaning you can leave your car at either end of the city and ride in to Brooklyn Village, a short walk from Bank of America Stadium.

You can also book a match-day parking spot through TicketMaster or SpotHero.


When, where, how, and how much

Charlotte FC distributes tickets online, with prices around $50 for seats in the upper row of the lower bowl behind the West Goal (sections 201-206, 253, 255-256) and $70 for the lower row (sections 101-103, 139-140).

Over the corner flags in upper sections 309-312 or 233-234), you pay around $80-$90 for a seat, $130 in lower sections 105-107 and 124-126. It’s about the same price in the lower sections over the halfway line 109-114 and 129-134, nearer $185 in upper sections 313-318 and 340-346.

For the supporters’ section (119-124, 227-231), tickets ($50-$60) are sold on a first-come, first-served basis and you’ll be expected to stand the whole time, as that’s what everyone else will be doing.

If, as in the case of most games, only the lower bowl is open, then only a few thousand seats will be available during the week of the match. If the whole stadium is open, then there should be little problem with availability. The ticket office at the stadium opens from 9am on game days.

For all inquiries, contact +704-593-4200,


Jerseys, souvenirs, and all kinds of gear

The main team store (Mon-Fri 11am-6pm, Sat noon-4pm, match days) for Charlotte FC can be found in section 116 within the stadium. The current first primary jersey features waves of white, light and darker blues, with a black collar and adidas stripes on the shoulders. The back is all light blue with white sleeves. The secondary jersey, aka the Crown Jewel, is purple with the regal crest and sponsor’s name in light blue.

The four-pointed crown echoes the club’s nickname, The Crown, and Charlotte’s heritage, the city named after Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Britain’s longest-serving queen consort, patient wife of George III, ‘the king who lost America’.


Enjoy the full matchday experience
Bank of America Stadium/Kate Mitchell

The main tailgate site is a large parking lot at 703 McNinch Street involving the Mint City Collective, Carolina Hooliganz, and Southbound and Crown, who all set up four hours before kickoff, offering craft beer and Colombian burgers before the march to the stadium an hour before the game.

They file past the Clutch Kitchen & Pour House bar, whose patio will be filled with CLTFC fans in blue as the atmosphere builds.

Where to Drink

Matchday beers at the stadium and downtown

The nearest bar to the stadium, also close to the McNinch St tailgate, is Clutch Kitchen & Pour House (601 S Cedar St), a neighorhood sports bar with 20 TVs ranged over two floors and the popular patio. 

More than a dozen beers on tap (Pacifico, Modelo, Peroni) feature NC draft options such as Legion Juicy Jay and Sycamore Mountain Candy and if the game is midweek, look out for daily specials for drinks and meal deals. The burger selection includes the Charlotte FC steakhouse variety with bacon and sautéed mushrooms. Open from 11am daily, with midnight closing on weekends.

Also close, the Graham St Pub & Patio (400 S Graham St 4) (open from 11am) attracts CLTFC supporters to its roof terrace, where craft beers (Birdsong, NoDa Hop Drop N’Roll) and quesadillas come with a view. Plenty of TV screens inside, too.

Still walking distance to the stadium, Brevard Court, aka the French Quarter, is a hub of bars and restaurants. Most suitable for soccer is Courtyard Hooligans, geared to the beautiful game with its bank of screens, scarves and flags, NoDa, OMB and Triple C beers.

Alongside, Belfast Mill puts as much emphasis on sports as it does on its Guinness, Smithwick’s and five dozen Irish whiskeys. Valhalla caters to thirsty Vikings with ten beer taps dispensing rotating local brews, and sports lovers with a TV screen here and there. A capable kitchen gets busier during happy hour on food, 4pm-7pm weekdays.

Further along N Graham St, the Corner Pub is known for its wings, draft craft beers – Yuengling, Red Oak Hummin’Bird, Sycamore Super Quench – and regular schedule of TV sports.


Following the local soccer scene through history
Courtyard Hooligans/Kate Mitchell

1981 Carolina Lightnin’ founded, win American Soccer League at their first attempt

1984 Carolina Lightnin’ and American Soccer League fold

1991 Charlotte Eagles formed as a division of the Christian Missionary Athletes International

1996 Ericsson Stadium, later renamed Bank of America Stadium, opens

2014 Charlotte Independence founded in 2014 and acquires USL Pro franchise rights of Charlotte Eagles. Bank of America Stadium hosts International Champions Cup game between Liverpool and Milan in front of 69,364

2018 Charlotte’s bid to stage World Cup 2026 matches at Bank of America Stadium rejected

2019 David Tepper, owner Carolina Panthers, granted an MLS franchise for Charlotte

2020 New entity named Charlotte FC and given a crest and a nickname related to the city’s regal and fiscal heritage

2022 Delayed a year due to the pandemic, Charlotte FC makes home league debut at Bank of America Stadium in front of a record MLS crowd of 74,479

2022 Charlotte FC beats Chelsea on penalties in international friendly

2024 Bank of America Stadium hosts two prestigious games, including a semifinal, as part of Copa América. Chelsea and Real Madrid meet at Bank of America Stadium for an international friendly.