Pro soccer player returns home to play for Charlotte FC

CHARLOTTE — Imagine falling so in love with a sport as a kid that you are driven to become a professional.

Now imagine you’ve become that pro and the league you play in just expanded to your home city.

A former UNC Charlotte 49er knew he had to return home when Major League Soccer announced an expansion team in Charlotte.

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“As soon as I heard about it, I called my agent up and I said, ‘Hey, look, we gotta make this happen,’” said Brandt Bronico, midfielder with Charlotte FC.

Bronico’s dream became a reality in December when he was traded to Charlotte FC.

“It means the world to me,” Bronico said. “Thinking back, always wishing that there would be an MLS team in the Carolinas, in Charlotte, specifically.”

Bronico said there were other MLS options on the table.

His contract with the Chicago Fire was about to expire.

Brandt knew he wanted to come home and the trade was made.

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Bronico’s contract will be lent to the Charlotte Independence until 2022 when Charlotte FC kicks off.

“It’s a little more unique,” he said. “Not like traditional American sports. I guess a loan is like you’re with another team, but you’re signed with your parent squad. Me and my wife wanted to be in Charlotte and wanted to be a part of this community, part of the Charlotte FC community.”

The Charlotte community spearheaded him to the MLS. Bronico was Conference USA Men’s Soccer Player of the Year and MVP in 2016 while playing for the Charlotte 49ers.

“By his junior year, he was getting lots of goals, lots of assists,” said Kevin Langan, 49ers men’s soccer coach. “He was really our driving force moving on. He took his great play and really said, ‘Look I’m the man of the team. I’m gonna help us win this game.’”

Langan will soon have one of his own on full display in Charlotte.

“We get to see one of our own play in the MLS in our own city, so it adds that kind of validity to all the players in our program, all the local youth players who grow up playing in the Carolinas,” the coach said.

Bronico gets to be an example and calls Bank of America Stadium his home, the same field where he grew up as a Carolina Panthers fan.

“(Playing at BOA) definitely is an awesome experience, a cool thing,” he said. “Back then, there wasn’t any talk of an MLS team in the Carolinas or especially Panthers stadium. It was always an American football specific stadium.

The stadium will see major renovations between the start of the upcoming NFL season and when Charlotte FC takes the pitch for the first time next year.

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