Today, Charlotte FC has announced its first official MLS home game will be played against LA Galaxy at the Bank of America Stadium on 5th March 2022. GiveMeSport caught up with Premier League legend and Charlotte star Christian Fuchs to get his reaction.
“We can make history happen.”
Christian Fuchs’ eyes light up as he sits forward when discussing Charlotte FC’s latest announcement. The club has just confirmed its first MLS home game for 5th March 2022, against LA Galaxy at their new home ground, the Bank of America Stadium.
Not only that, the club is also aiming to break the MLS attendance record at the first time of asking, surpassing the current total of 72,548 set by their rivals, Atlanta United.
“It’s going to be an amazing atmosphere,” Fuchs continued. “If we can get the [attendance] record as well then it’s going to be incredible. The enthusiasm and excitement going into that first game — against LA Galaxy too, what a game, what a team — will be electric.”
Fuchs, a Premier League winner with Leicester City in 2016, signed for Charlotte FC last summer, and has been keeping match-fit by playing games for Charlotte Independence, the USL Championship side, this season.
“It’s been less physical,” Fuchs laughs, when talking about the difference in playing style compared to what he’d been used to in Europe. “Obviously I haven’t played at MLS level yet, but I’ve been surrounded by really good people who’ve helped me settle in and keep fit.
“One thing I’ve really enjoyed has been meeting and interacting with the Independence fans. They’re super passionate. Always coming dressed in different outfits and trying to create a crazy atmosphere. You need fans like that, who stand by you through everything.”
The hope now will be that the club can attract a plethora of fans from across its sports-mad city — boasting a population of approximately 15 million people — and get them to regularly turn out for Charlotte FC’s home fixtures.
“Carolina has been longing for an MLS team for some time now,” Fuchs admits. “On top of that, we’ve had to wait with plans being delayed a year [due to COVID], so with our fans in the stadium supporting us, screaming so loud Galaxy fans can’t hear even themselves… I can’t wait.”
Indeed, Charlotte has tried on a number of occasions to submit bids to become an MLS franchise. But it was only in 2018, when hedge fund manager and owner of the Carolina Panthers David Tepper got involved, that those dreams finally came to fruition.
Over a year after the bid had been confirmed, Tepper — alongside Tom Glick, the former chief operating officer of Manchester City — managed to secure backing from the City and a major partnership with Ally Bank, and the expansion team was officially awarded.
Despite having to delay the club’s MLS involvement for a year on account of the global pandemic, Fuchs has actually found the interim time really useful as he settled into his new surroundings.
“It’s been ideal, to be honest. To get to know the city, to get to know the people. Not having to come here and it be pre-season straight away while I’m still looking for an apartment and things like that.”
The extra time also provided Fuchs with a chance to catch some MLS games on TV, and with this season’s playoffs now right around the corner, it’s something he’s eager to discuss.
“It’s definitely different [compared to European football]. It’s a system [the playoffs] that works across all American sports. MLS is the same. You don’t have promotion or relegation, so this is something that adds to the overall excitement of the league and is really special for the players and fans.”
Now chomping at the bit to get going, Fuchs has spent some time with Charlotte FC’s new manager, Miguel Ángel Ramírez, and is looking forward to putting his wealth of footballing experience to good use in helping out the team.
“I’ve met the manager several times which has been great. We’ve had some very positive meetings, talking about our future playing philosophy, what he demands from his players, things like that. It was all what I was hoping to hear and confirmed to me that we have a really good coaching team in place.”
When pushed on the playing philosophy, Fuchs was coy in his response: “I’m not giving away any insights, haha. There’s going to be 11 players on the pitch, even if we’re still signing them all now! That’s all I’ll say.”
His elusiveness further adds to the anticipation as we build up to what promises to be a historic day for both the city of Charlotte and MLS in general. And that intrigue only increases further when you realise Charlotte FC’s first fixture will be on the same weekend as the Manchester Derby in England.
The prospect of more fans being in attendance to watch Charlotte’s first ever home game than at the Etihad Stadium encapsulates both the madness and sheer potential of this budding franchise. “It’s Fuchs-ing unbelievable,” the defender beams.