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Charlotte on Cusp of Becoming 30th MLS Franchise

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All signs are pointing to Charlotte forming the latest team in Major League Soccer’s aggressive expansion.

The Charlotte Observer reports that potential team names have been filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, while WSOC-TV in Charlotte reports that the city has agreed to provide $110 million in hospitality funds and that the MLS will announce the expansion team on Dec. 17.

Charlotte would become the 30th team in the MLS, which was formed with 10 teams in 1996. Twenty teams have already been formed since 2005, including a list of teams that have yet to play their first game. Inter Miami FC and Nashville SC will begin playing in 2020, while Austin FC will join the fray in 2021, and Sacramento Republic FC and St. Louis will join in 2022.

The Charlotte expansion, which is being led by Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper, has ramped up in recent months. Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles wrote a November letter, acquired by the Charlotte Business Journal, telling MLS Commissioner Don Garber that the city will provide $110 million in hospitality funds and that the city would welcome a team.

“We are excited to welcome a Major League Soccer team to Charlotte and are taking several major steps to be a welcoming, diverse and inclusive community to the league’s 30th team,” Lyles wrote. “The addition of Major League Soccer will significantly contribute to the energy of Charlotte’s professional sports stage, as well as cement a long-term relationship between Charlotte and MLS for many, many years to come.”

Garber has also recently discussed Charlotte’s potential for expansion.

“We believe it’s a growing city on the rise, and one that’s got so much opportunity for us to be able to continue to expand our league,” Garber said in an MLS Board of Governors meeting on Dec. 5, according to CNBC.

The sides are working to solve issues of playing at Bank of America Stadium, the 75,000-plus seat home of the Panthers. Seattle and Atlanta currently have stadiums that house NFL and MLS teams.

"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," Garber said Dec. 5, according to the Associated Press. "There's a wide variety of things that they've already worked on that need to be finalized. Ensuring that the supporters section is proper, ensure 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."

The Charlotte Observer reports that potential team names were filed to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Dec. 6 by DT Soccer, LLC, which lists Panthers’ vice president and general counsel Stephen Argeris as the contact. The names included Charlotte FC, Charlotte Crown FC, Charlotte Fortune FC, Charlotte Monarchs FC, Charlotte Athletic FC, Charlotte Town TC, Carolina Gliders FC and All Carolina FC.

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