By Tyler Trent
Earlier this season, I spoke with Charlotte FC’s fans who have traveled to away games about their experience and the hospitality of the fans outside of Charlotte, but what experience have away fans had on their trips to Charlotte?
I had the privilege to chat with Vas from the Soccer Subs Podcast and Blake from MLS Gone Wild about their experience traveling to the Queen City and the origin of their fandoms.
Vas has been a fan of the New York Red Bulls since their MetroStars days, so he’s been to quite a few away days in his time. However, his trip to Charlotte as an away fan was a little different because his team wasn’t even playing. Vas made the trip for Charlotte FC’s historic inaugural home game against the LA Galaxy as a member of the media for Soccer Subs.
“It was the Soccer Subs first venture as media members and it opened up the door for us to our local market as well I'd say to attend games as part of the media for both New York teams respectively.”
Vas was able to make it to the Supporters Tailgate Lot to kickstart his experience in Charlotte. “I enjoyed my time eating incredible food, familiarizing myself with songs and chants with the diehard fans, and I even got to meet the man himself, David Tepper.”
“Everyone was having a blast and the diverse styles of support from the more South American style with the Blue Furia to the Charlotte FCASU to the Carolina Hooliganz, it truly made for a unique pre-game experience and one heck of an away day activity that's a must whether you're supporting an away team or just visiting to watch Charlotte FC.”
Vas really enjoyed being able to attend an inaugural home match for a team in MLS and being able to experience the historic night as a fan of MLS and US Soccer.
“From meeting Woody (Wilder) personally and seeing the likes of Jessica Charman hustling like a busy bee, and Jorge representing what this team is and needs on and off the field in terms of covering the team and being a passionate fan.” Vas also enjoyed the press box food at Bank of America Stadium.
A highlight for Vas was walking out of the player tunnel into a record-breaking crowd before kickoff and getting to soak in the amazing atmosphere. We hope to see Vas back in Charlotte when the Red Bulls come to town in the future!
Blake from MLS Gone Wild also had a pretty unique experience in his travel to Charlotte. A lifelong Columbus Crew fan, Blake had previously only traveled to three away matches, but has plans to work on those numbers. With previous trips to the Carolina Challenge Cup vs. Atlanta United, a match versus DC United in 2019, and a trip to Philadelphia in 2021 where Blake stated “the cheesesteaks were better than the soccer” after the Crew lost 3-0.
Blake and his girlfriend traveled to Charlotte to take in an exciting matchup and meet some online friends. However, the game was delayed for hours due to lightning and eventually postponed with only 15 minutes of the game being played. Despite that, it didn’t dampen Blake’s trip. Previous to coming to Charlotte, Blake had the opportunity to get to know Jorge and Brian from TopBin90, Lee from CLTFCFanTV, and Vaughn Pollman. “Charlotte is lucky to have such passionate and knowledgeable folks covering their team. Those guys are great.” Blake and his girlfriend were able to make the tailgate and were invited to take a picture with one of the supporters groups at the tailgate. At the tailgate, Blake traded scarves with Vaughn, did a pre-match interview with Jorge, and participated in some friendly banter along the way. Blake came to the Queen City with gifts as well. “I brought some Charlotte FC Topps cards to the game and handed them out to fans. I remember waiting in the long line to get into the team shop and as I got to the door, I struck up conversation with one of the team shop employees. We chatted soccer for a moment and before we departed, I asked him who his favorite player was. Cristian Fuchs was his response, so I handed him a 2022 Topps Christian Fuchs card. Made his day.” After continued lightning delays crowded inside the stadium concourse, Blake found a good place to give out the rest of the cards he brought.
“During the rain delay, I handed out the rest of my cards to three kids who seemed to be getting a little restless. They spent the next hour or so reading the stats on the back and proposing trades for each other’s cards. That, to be honest, was probably the highlight of my trip.”
While Blake didn't get to have much of a soccer experience, he did enjoy his time meeting people and exploring uptown Charlotte.
“In addition to all the great things I have already said about my experience, the uptown area of Charlotte was beautiful (when it wasn’t raining). The greenery in the uptown area made it feel like I wasn’t surrounded by skyscrapers. The people were awesome - so welcoming and friendly. I’d highly recommend the away day to any fans thinking of traveling. 10/10 experience and they only played 15:58 of soccer.”
Blake recognized Charlotte fans as by far the most welcoming of his four away days, with the Philadelphia Union fans a close second. Blake was unable to make it back to the rescheduled match, but we can't wait to have him back in Charlotte soon!
Away Days vs. Home Games
While it’s hard to beat the feeling of watching your team at home, there’s always some aspects of away days to look forward to. Vas and Blake shared their thoughts on what was so special about away days.
Vas really enjoyed his trip, but paid homage to his home city as well.
“Harrison is like my own little slice of heaven, but I love experiencing the diverse venues that MLS has to offer. As a bit of a US soccer nerd and as I've gotten older, I've really gotten to appreciate not just the game day experience itself, but the cities where I'm visiting. Charlotte was definitely one for the record books - you felt the entire city anticipating the day for Charlotte to finally be on the pitch at the Bank. The events around the city were all enjoyable, the launch of a beer for a supporters group was one, another highlight was the pubs to view not just MLS games but EPL action with a solid list of beers and good vibes to go along with them and even having found the Moonlight Diner on a quest for a late night meal.
Blake made the most of an unfortunate day of soccer by reveling in what can make away days and soccer in general so special.
“I love seeing new things and meeting new people. Soccer unites us all and I grasp that more every time I travel to an away stadium. The love for the game and league is growing and seeing that passion first hand, no matter where you go, gives me goosebumps.” Be sure to check out Vas at the Soccer Subs Podcast and Blake at MLS Gone Wild, you can also find them here at TopBin90 from time to time!