Crown Legacy FC Paying Early Dividends to Charlotte FC Through Commitment to Player Development

Class of 2023

Since its inception, Charlotte FC has consistently prioritized player development. Whether the talents hailed from local communities or international markets, the Club's overarching goal remained the same—to attract, foster, and promote talent from within its ranks.

In the ever-evolving landscape of professional soccer in the United States, the emphasis on youth development has become increasingly important for clubs aiming to secure sustained long-term success. Charlotte FC has embraced this philosophy wholeheartedly by ensuring a clear pathway to the first team.

Crown Legacy FC – the Club’s second team – is the final proving ground before potentially making the leap to the first team and playing in MLS.

Taking full advantage of the creation of MLS NEXT Pro, the new developmental league in which Legacy plays, has provided a platform for young talents to flourish. It has also begun to yield tangible results following its first season, with four promising players taking the next step to the first team: Nikola Petkovic, Iuri Tavares, João Pedro, and Chituru Odunze.

Ben Green, International & Emerging Talent Scout for Charlotte FC, played a key role in building the inaugural Legacy roster.

“We're extremely proud of the work that we did,” Green said. “With Crown Legacy, to promote one player would have been a success... let alone four [players].

“It speaks to our commitment to the player pathway. We understand how vital it is, and this team gives us creative possibilities to build our talent and depth from within.”

Already, three out of the four Legacy players who were promoted have made their MLS debuts within the first three matches of the season. This serves as a further testament to the focused strategy employed by the technical department when selecting which young internationals to recruit.

“The focus specifically with internationals was who can reach the first team the quickest,” Green explained. “Whether it's their profile, whether it's positionally... who ticks the most boxes in order to make the jump the quickest and warrant an international spot at the MLS level?”

Recruitment for Crown Legacy is deeply rooted in long-term planning, involving a careful analysis of both the first team and Legacy rosters to identify potential future gaps. Assistant General Manager Bobby Belair spearheads this strategic approach, working closely with the Scouting Department to formulate the Club's long-term plan.

“From an overall standpoint, we are trying to have a roster succession plan from the top to the bottom,” Belair emphasized.

Legacy is not solely a platform for developing international players; it also serves as a vital ground for local talents like Nimfasha Berchimas from the CLTFC Academy. Hailing from High Point, Berchimas began his journey with the Academy at the age of 13, progressing until securing a Homegrown Contract at just 15 years old.

He would transition from the Academy to Crown Legacy to continue his development. It’s here where he got his first taste of professional soccer, ultimately honing his skills for the leap to the first team, which he successfully achieved for the 2024 season.

Witnessing fellow Academy or Legacy teammates being rewarded for their hard work with a place in the first team serves as a beacon of inspiration for all the young players striving towards that same goal.

“It just creates a unified sense of belief that if I put in the work, if I proved that I'm capable of doing it, I'm going to get the opportunity,” Green said.

Not every MLS team has embraced MLS NEXT Pro with the same level of enthusiasm as Charlotte. The significance of Crown Legacy's success transcends the field, serving as a national statement of their commitment to youth development.

“It shows the entire country and all throughout the Carolinas that we are serious about our approach for the player pathway,” Belair said. “It proves to everyone this is the Club that produces from within the Carolinas, which we’ve been saying for the past four years to our fans.”

Charlotte FC's emphasis on youth development, epitomized by Crown Legacy's success, highlights the Club's dedication to nurturing talent and building for the future. With a clear vision and commitment to excellence, the Club is poised to continue making strides both on and off the field with its upcoming class of 2024.

Tune into Crown Legacy’s first match of their sophomore season on Sunday, March 17th, as they take on expansion side, Carolina Core FC.