Sources: MLS to name Charlotte as league's 30th franchise

NEW YORK — Major League Soccer will announce Charlotte as the 30th team, sources tell Channel 9.

Sources told Eyewitness News Anchor Allison Latos MLS officials plan to announce the expansion team in Charlotte on Dec. 17.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber had said Charlotte was a front runner.

Channel 9's cameras captured dozens of owners and Major League Soccer officials entering the Board of Governors meeting just before 8 a.m. Thursday. Panthers owner David Tepper and team President Tom Glick were also at the meetings in New York.

Tepper made a presentation to MLS owners at the meeting and Garber all but confirmed the expansion fee will be $300 million.

"The MLS board authorized the MLS expansion committee to enter into what I expect to be final negotiations with David to have Charlotte be our 30th team," Garber said. "No formal approval was granted today. What was approved was the expansion committee to now meet with David and his staff to try to finalize an agreement."

Charlotte would be the third MLS team to share a stadium in a long-term relationship with the NFL, joining Seattle and Atlanta.

"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. "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."

Glick is former chief commercial officer of Manchester City and president of MLS's New York City team.

Tepper is attempting to obtain city funding for alterations at Bank of America Stadium.

"We're excited and optimistic we can bring a soccer team for the Carolinas to Charlotte," Glick said.

Glick said he and Tepper talked to executives about everything from the market for soccer in Charlotte, the stadium and how they would run a franchise.

He said any decisions about the team name, colors or crest would be made with the help of the fans.

[Sources: City discussing potential $100-200M stadium renovations for MLS]

When Latos asked Glick if Charlotte would potentially host an All-Star game, he said, "We would love for that to happen, but first we need to land the team."

Asked about the expansion fee, Garber said, "I've heard some of those numbers. They wouldn't be wrong."

MLS is expanding to 26 teams in 2020 with the additions of Miami and Nashville, Tennessee.

Austin, Texas, joins in 2021, then St. Louis and Sacramento, California, in 2022.

Las Vegas and Phoenix also have been in discussions with MLS. While the league has not committed to expanding beyond 30 teams, Garber also did not rule out reaching 32.

From the moment Tepper bought the Panthers in 2018, he's talked about bringing MLS to Charlotte, and he wants $100 million tourism tax dollars to renovate Bank of America Stadium for soccer.

If the money comes from the city's tourism fund, it would not take away from money for priorities like affordable housing.

[ALSO READ: Charlotte MLS team headquarters, practice facility eyed for Eastland]

Charlotte City Council has yet to approve that money or publicly discuss whether the team's headquarters could be located at the old Eastland Mall site.

Mayor Vi Lyles tweeted a statement saying the city can't comment until after an official announcement is made.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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