Councilman: Support from new Panthers owner could reignite push for pro soccer

Councilman: Support from new Panthers owner????could reignite push for professional soccer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — World-class soccer made a stop in Charlotte Sunday afternoon as Liverpool FC battled Borussia Dortmund on the pitch in the International Champions Cup.

The event brought masses of people from miles away, crowding uptown and Bank of America Stadium.

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It's the fourth time the International Champions Cup has been played in Charlotte, but the first under new Panthers owner David Tepper.

Previous matches were played in 2014, 2015 and 2016, featuring teams from the U.S., Europe and Singapore.

Just weeks into his role as an NFL owner, Tepper brought up the concept of bringing Major League Soccer to Charlotte on several occasions.

He mentioned it for the first time in May during the NFL owners' meeting when asked if he was interested in being the sole owner of the team or if he would have minority partners.

“I'm trying to determine the development I want to have in the community, and so the more development there is in the community, it might make it more difficult to have minority partners,” Tepper said. “If you want to do an MLS team or something like that, which might make some sense if you are in fact in Charlotte.”

During his introductory news conference in July, Tepper referenced several opportunities when a possible public-private partnership could be beneficial to pay for improvements to Bank of America Stadium.

“(If) I make an investment in MLS, and I bring that in here, and I bring that many more dollars into the community, that’s businesses in the community, and that's more tax dollars generated, then that makes sense to split some of those tax dollars," Tepper said.

The city of Charlotte tried to get an expansion team in 2017, but officials were not able to get a deal finished before the deadline.

On Sunday, Councilman James Mitchell said the timing wasn’t right for MLS expansion following unrest in Charlotte after the officer-involved shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott.

Mitchell said finding a location for a team was a challenge, but support from an NFL owner like Tepper could reignite the push for professional soccer.

He referenced Atlanta as a model city Charlotte could follow.

Mitchell said support from Tepper would be a huge boost for bringing the sport to Charlotte.

“Where the owner, like Tepper came in and said, ‘I want to have a dual purpose, I want to be able to play professional football as well as professional soccer in the same venue,’” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said he attended a soccer game in Atlanta recently on a Wednesday night.

That game drew more than 40,000 fans.

Mitchell thinks Charlotte can draw more.

“Totally behind it. (I) want to make it happen in the Queen City," Mitchell said.

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