Its start pushed back by a year because of the coronavirus pandemic, Charlotte’s MLS expansion team is nevertheless forging ahead, and on Wednesday morning, it unveiled a name and logo that’ll help it blend right in once it takes the field in 2022.
Charlotte FC is the name, thus continuing the trend of generic club monikers that’s taken hold across the league over the past decade-plus. It’s now the eighth MLS team to follow the “City FC/SC” formula, and that’s in addition to the three Uniteds (SC likely was a nonstarter for Charlotte because of its proximity to South Carolina).
And the logo perpetuates MLS’s inexplicable fixation on crowns. Charlotte FC introduced a round club crest anchored by a large white crown, whose four points symbolize the city’s four original wards, according to the team. The Carolina blue and black colors reflect those of CFC’s organizational partner, the NFL’s Carolina Panthers. The logo’s most original flourish is the “MINTED” and “•2022•” on the roundel’s sides. Rather than the standard “Est.”, CFC went with a tribute to the country’s first branch mint, which was opened in Charlotte in 1837. It’s also a reference to the its current status as a banking and financial center.
It becomes the fifth MLS logo to feature a crown, which might seem like a lot in a country whose founding was grounded in an explicit rejection of monarchy. Each of the five clubs thinks its crown fits, of course, and Charlotte at least has a clearer claim than the other four.
The city is named for Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the German wife of George III and Queen of Great Britain and Ireland (and then the UK) from 1761 until her death in 1818. The name was chosen back when residents were still British subjects, and although the area was rife with revolutionary activity (that’s the inspiration for the Charlotte Hornets’ brand), the city kept its name even after independence was declared.
Charlotte is one of only 38 American cities that has called itself the “Queen City,” according to Wikipedia, and the crown is used as a symbol throughout the area and on a city flag. And it’s used even though the woman who wore it didn’t wish Charlotte’s citizens well. The queen was understandably anti-revolution. She wrote, “Cursed be those who encourage the rebels,” in a 1775 letter to her brother, the Grand Duke Charles II.
CFC pondered taking its tribute to antagonistic British royalty even further. Among the names it considered were Charlotte Crown FC and Charlotte Monarchs FC. It also listed All Carolina FC, Carolina Gliders FC, Charlotte Athletic FC and Charlotte Town FC (Charlottetown was the city’s original name) before announcing the least distinctive option on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the club now has additional time establish its new/familiar brand and prepare for its first game at Bank of America Stadium, which it’ll share with owner David Tepper’s other sporting interest, the Panthers. MLS announced last week that Charlotte FC, Sacramento Republic and the new team in St. Louis all will delay entry by a year. Sacramento and St. Louis will kick off in 2023. Austin FC, the remaining expansion team, still intends to start in 2021.
“After a lot of discussion with Major League Soccer, we are confident it is in the best interest of our club and our supporters to take additional time to ensure a successful inaugural season,” Tepper Sports president Tom Glick said last week. “When we were awarded the team in December, we knew we were on an extremely tight timeline to begin play in 2021, but we were ready to meet that challenge. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted several of our essential initiatives. We have made huge progress in the last few months but having additional time to build is important.”
Charlotte, which paid an MLS-record $325 million entry fee, has signed one player, 25-year-old Spanish midfielder Sergio Ruiz. It’s unclear where the former Racing Santander player will spend 2021. There’s no head coach, but Tepper and Glick have made a couple key technical appointments. Serbian player agent and scout Zoran Krneta was named sporting director in December, and former Seattle Sounders director of player development Marc Nicholls was named technical director in January.
Glick told Front Office Sports this week that Charlotte FC already has received deposits for more than 25,000 season tickets.
“We have, from a sporting side … we do have a scouting team pretty set,” Tepper said during an interview that accompanied Wednesday’s unveiling. “We’re getting ready to launch the academy. We signed our first player, who were very excited about, Sergio. We’re going to be more prepared with this little delay than we ever would’ve [had] before. We’re going to have a much better experience, and I think we’ll have a lot more time to make sure we have a better team from the get-go.”