An MLS record attendance made for an unforgettable evening for the home debut of the latest franchise in Major League Soccer
CHARLOTTE—It was a historic night, the likes of which Bank of America Stadium has never seen before.
As Charlotte FC’s players made their way onto the field for the historic inaugural home match, the lights dropped, and 74,479 roared in unison.
In the rambunctious supporters section, flags waved, the sulfurous smell of Carolina-blue flares filled the air, and the aisles were packed with supporters who wanted to be as close as possible to this once-in-a-lifetime moment.
With a crowd that shattered MLS attendance records—and represented the largest attendance of any match in the world over the weekend—the stadium was bouncing. Literally, it bounced as fans jumped in unison while chanting “CLT! CLT!” at a raucous volume. In its 26 years, the tensile strength of the concrete beneath the seats at this stadium has never faced such a test.
In December 2019, when the Queen City was awarded its Major League Soccer franchise, owner David Tepper asked fans a question: Are you ready to party?
Those who sang their hearts out for 90 minutes; those who marched to the stadium in their thousands; and those who danced en masse on the concourse to a Justin Timberlake classic while picking up their half-time refreshments gave Mr Tepper the answer he was looking for.
“My biggest takeaway from the evening was that almost everybody in the lower bowl was standing up for the whole game,” says fan Adam Pastore, noting that many of the seats in the stadium went unused. “You hardly ever see that. This is a sign of great things to come for this city.”
On the field, Charlotte FC succumbed to a world-class effort from LA Galaxy’s Efrain Alvarez, but it didn’t dampen the spirits of a fanbase that has found a new common cause to get behind.
“Everyone was excited and completely united in getting behind the team,” says fan Nikki Charlesworth, one of many in the stadium experiencing MLS for the first time. “I’ve never seen anything like it at Bank of America Stadium before.
“From start to finish, there was a genuine feeling of being behind the team and everyone being in it together—that was obvious when the PA temporarily cut out during the National Anthem. The fans stepped in and everyone sang together.”
For new and seasoned soccer fans alike, the home opener will live long in the memory.
“This has been life-changing,” says Terry Hines, a member of the Mint City Collective supporters group. “The whole day feels like the culmination of a lot of work from a lot of people. There was palpable excitement in the air—it’s pretty special to be a part of, and definitely surreal.”
Despite nearly 2,500 miles separating Los Angeles and Charlotte, the momentous nature of the occasion brought an admirable amount of Californian fans to Uptown. LA Galaxy fan Sandra Cervantes was among those who earned air miles en route to Bank of America Stadium.
“There was so much excitement and anticipation about Charlotte’s first game, so we wanted to be a part of that,” said Cervantes. ”We’re so happy to be here and to have experienced this, and the cliche of southern hospitality is definitely true!”
For many, the party started at the official supporters’ tailgate, where thousands of fans gathered to prepare for the big game. Cervantes was welcomed to celebrate with the home contingent amid a carnival atmosphere.
“The tailgate was truly amazing,” said Cervantes. “There’s a camaraderie between supporters groups here that LA doesn’t have. It sucks that we don’t have something like this back home!”
The party started in the parking lot earlier in the day, and went on long past the full-time whistle, where fans stayed in the stadium, cheering and waving flags as the players warmed down.
“We've been waiting on this day for so long,” says Kelsey Weise, one of 7,000 fans who put down a deposit for a season ticket on the day the team was announced. “It still hasn’t quite hit me that today is here, and it’s unreal that we’ve been able to break records and bring such an atmosphere.”
The thing about first impressions is that you only get to make one. And while the result on the field didn’t go the way of the hosts, the party in Uptown Charlotte made an indelible mark on everyone in attendance, and all those watching around the world.
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