Charlotte’s MLS team won’t play until 2022, league announces

St. Louis and Sacramento are also being pushed back a year, to 2023, due to the coronavirus pandemic

MLS Commissioner Don Garber, left, and Charlotte MLS owner David Tepper announce that Major League Soccer will be coming to Charlotte in 2021 on Dec. 17. The league announced Friday the team would not start play until 2022 due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Nell Redmond / AP Photo)

NEW YORK — Major League Soccer announced it is pushing back the Charlotte franchise’s entry into the league a year, to 2022, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

MLS also moved the back the St. Louis and Sacramento teams a year, to 2023, the league said Friday.

Austin, Texas, remains on track to begin next year, when MLS will have 27 teams. MLS said Austin FC had made significant progress before the pandemic.

“It is important for each club to take the necessary time to launch their inaugural MLS seasons the way their fans and communities deserve,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. “With the extra year to make up for what has been a challenging 2020, these teams will be well-positioned for their debuts and for long-term success.”

The Charlotte club still plans to unveil its team name and crest on Wednesday.

“We are committed to bringing Major League Soccer to our city and region,” said Charlotte MLS owner David Tepper, also the owner of the Carolina Panthers. “The party’s still on! We are just delaying it a bit to ensure we have the best experience for our fans when we do start playing.”

Charlotte was awarded an expansion franchise in December and will play at Bank of America Stadium.

MLS teams had played two games each when the coronavirus caused a shutdown on March 12. Twenty-four teams are part of a resumption tournament in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, that started July 8. Dallas and Nashville withdrew after numerous players tested positive for COVID-19.