CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte FC took the field at Bank of America Stadium for the first time in franchise history, facing off against the LA Galaxy Saturday evening. However, the black and blue weren't able to defend their home turf, falling to the Galaxy 1-0 after full time.
The match was Charlotte FC's second overall in Major League Soccer play, coming off a 3-0 loss against DC United last week. LA Galaxy's visit to Charlotte comes after shutting out New York City FC 1-0.
“We play football because we want to win. But I believe I am the happiest coach in the world. The energy, it was amazing," said coach Miguel Ramirez during a postgame news briefing. "Thank you North Carolina, South Carolina, and everyone that came. One request I would like for them to come back the next game.”
Defender Jaylin Lindsey, a Charlotte native, also took the mic post-game, saying despite the loss, he was starstruck himself getting to play in front of thousands of people in his hometown.
"I was trying to soak it all in. I pictured myself in the nose bleeds watching Panthers games. Now I’m that person on the field. It was just unbelievable," he said.
A record-breaking match
While the loss wasn't cause for much celebration, there was still quite the turnout at Bank of America Stadium in Uptown for team supporters, both inside the stadium and outside.
Earlier this week, Charlotte FC said it has sold enough tickets to break the MLS attendance record on Saturday against LA Galaxy.
The record crowd for any MLS match is 72,584. Charlotte FC had sold roughly 73,500 tickets for Saturday, and before the game got underway, the team revealed they had broken the MLS record with 74,479 fans in attendance.
The road to the first match
Bank of America Stadium began a $50 million project in mid-March 2021 and included a 211-foot wide-angle single LED screen along the stadium’s Mint Street façade and an improved Lowe’s East Gate outside.
“I assure you that this building will be ready to go and exciting on March 5 when the ball is on the pitch,” Mark Hart, vice president and chief operating officer of Tepper Sports and Entertainment said during a tour he and others provided reporters.
As fans enter the stadium, they’ll see an upgraded main concourse with bars featuring 360-degree LED video boards, as well as grab-&-go markets with hot entrees, packaged snacks, and beverages.
A new addition in 2022 that will debut for Charlotte FC matches is The Vault. It is a premium club area located on the North Sideline surrounding the Charlotte FC entrance tunnel.
“Our players will actually process out of the locker room through The Vault where folks are standing right there by our fans as they walk onto the pitch before the match,” said Jake Burns, chief revenue officer for Tepper Sports and Entertainment, “and fans will be able to cheer them as they walk back into the locker room after a victory.”
The Vault includes reserved field-side cushioned seats and access to the private indoor lounge, premium all-inclusive food and beverage, concierge service, and a dedicated game day entrance.
The Vault, which has field seating for approximately 150 fans for soccer matches, is already sold out for the Charlotte FC season.
Defender Jaylin Lindsey grew up in Charlotte before leaving as a teenager to pursue his professional career.
After several years with Sporting KC, Lindsey is back home, playing for Charlotte FC. The 21-year-old started the team's inaugural match, a 3-0 loss to D.C. United.
Charlotte FC's designated player rule allows clubs to acquire up to three players whose total compensations and acquisition costs exceed the maximum salary budget.
"We have one designated player, Karol Swiderski a polish international player. We are super excited about him. He is going to be our goal scorer on the roaster," McIntosh said.
McIntosh told us they plan to build out their roaster and intend to sign a couple more designated players in the future.
Boost for businesses
The game is expected to bring big crowds to Uptown Charlotte businesses, an area that saw customers drop off amid the pandemic.
"A lot of these places took a hit during COVID,” Rick Bellino, general manager of Mellow Mushroom, said. “A lot of them shut down, so it's just really great to see the city come alive again."
Mellow Mushroom is gearing up for Charlotte FC supporters to stop by before, during, and after the match.
"We're just really bumping up our staff, our staff and our par levels for food, beverage, all of that, and yeah, we're just really excited,” Bellino said. “It's going to be really good. You know, a few years down with COVID, it's good to see this come through."
Where to watch
All streets will reopen at 3:00 a.m. March 6, 2022.
A livestream of the inaugural match is available at charlottefootballclub.com/live.
Find more information about how you can tune in to the match here.
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