Hey Smarties, have you heard that our new Major League Soccer team is about to start its second season, and the team kicks off on Saturday night at 7:30 at Bank of America Stadium? They’re expecting more than 60,000 fans and hoping to reach 70,000. Tickets in the upper deck are going for only $15, so this is a great time to bring the whole family – especially those with children who don’t need early bedtimes – or head out on a date night! For ticket information, click here.
Did you have a chance to get to a game last season? If so, I have a feeling you’re more than ready to go back. If not, jump on the bandwagon. It’s great fun and a nice way to introduce your kids to professional sports. My other gig in addition to writing and editing for Charlotte Smarty Pants is covering Charlotte FC for a newsletter called The Charlotte Ledger. Every Friday I write about all that is going on in and around the team. It’s an easy place to find all the information you need about the team and it’s free!
Here are 5 things to know to get ready for the new season:
1. Due to a new TV contract there is only ONE day game on the home schedule this year and it’s coming fast: Saturday March 11 at noon vs. Atlanta United. This is the game when you want to take your young kids! It’s also Charlotte FC’s biggest rival already so the atmosphere is that much more fun!
2. If you haven’t heard about the tragic death of their 25-year-old defender Anton Walkes last month, I’ll share it here because it’ll be mentioned and reflected at all the games this year and is a rallying point for the team. Walkes, a gregarious teammate and fan-favorite player, was in a boating accident in Florida where the team was practicing during the preseason. He died of his injuries on Jan. 19, leaving behind a partner and young daughter. To get more of a perspective on it, read more here.
3. The team has three new star players to watch for: forward Enzo Copetti from Argentina, who is expected to be a bigtime goal scorer. Look for him on the front line. He’s the one with bleach blond hair, piercing blue eyes and tattoos down to his wrist!
Another bigtime new player is midfielder Ashley Westwood, a Brit, who has spent 10 years playing in the English Premier League and brings a steadying presence both on the field and off. Also new to the club is defender and New Zealander Bill Tuiloma, whom the team acquired from Portland a week before the season, needing a veteran player to take Walkes’ place on the backline.
4. For families looking for an easier and more affordable way to take in professional soccer games in Charlotte this summer, the Charlotte FC is debuting a new MLS Next Pro team, Crown Legacy FC, which is basically like a Triple-A minor league baseball team. It will feature younger players who are on the cusp of making the MLS squad. Crown Legacy FC will play its home games at the Matthews Sportsplex, beginning on March 26 at 3 p.m. against Huntsville City FC.
5. And finally, here are some details you might want to know about Saturday’s game if you are going or thinking about going! The fan groups host a huge tailgate party at 703 McNinch St. , which starts at 3 p.m. Bojangles will provide free food for it this Saturday. A Mint Street festival starts at 4 p.m. The first 10,000 fans into the gates, which open 90 minutes prior to kickoff, will receive a limited edition poster. Meteorologists say while there’s rain in the forecast, it’s expected to be only a drizzle by kickoff. Fans can expect a full slate of pregame festivities, including drone show, the unveiling of a tifo (a tapestry of fan artwork), a new intro video for the team, as well as moment of silence to honor the late Walkes. Also five minutes into the game, fans will stand and clap for one minute in honor of Walkes, who wore No. 5.