Charlotte FC president on building authentic fan culture

Exclusive – With the influx of expansion teams, one of the biggest challenges facing Major League Soccer right now is authenticity. Entering MLS in 2022, Charlotte FC are the latest to tackle this obstacle.

Unlike their century-old counterparts in Europe, or even MLS originals like the LA Galaxy and DC United, expansion sides have to juggle generating an atmosphere in the stands with building real-life culture and tradition from scratch.

The first battle in that war for Charlotte is uniting the giant catchment area that is the Carolinas, states with a combined population of over 15 million people.

“We really want to be the unifying force of the Carolinas,” CFC president Nick Kelly told 90min exclusively while at the Leaders Week sport business conference at Twickenham Stadium, London. “When I say unifying force, there is a lot of, let’s call it conflict. And it’s mostly positive conflict in the sports landscape between being from North or South Carolina, or even in the university system with North Carolina-Duke.

“A lot of people also show up to Charlotte and they already have a team, they’re from New York, or Miami, or Columbus, and they like another NFL team. But nobody’s really showing up with an MLS team. Nobody has a huge affiliation with an existing club. We want to be the one club, no matter where you’re from in the Carolinas, that we all can unite on, the fact that we all love Charlotte FC, because there is no pre-existing type of fandom.”

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