By Brian Maurer
Image courtesy of Charlotte FC
Charlotte FC announced the launch of their new MLS NEXT Pro team this morning, Crown Legacy FC. The team will have its own independent branding including logo and crest.
The name of the team describes what the prospects can become in Charlotte while starting their careers for the MLS NEXT Pro side. The crest represents the steps it takes to build that legacy.
“The essence around it is this is a place where our young players, potential prospects of the first team, are gonna begin their legacy” explains Crown Legacy FC President, Darrius Barnes. “The geometric shapes of the crown look like building blocks and essentially symbolize the building blocks that it takes within our pathway to get to the first team” continues Barnes. “We’re excited about what this brand and team will represent, we’re excited about players putting on the jersey for the first time, and we’re excited about being able to progress players throughout the pathway on to the first team”.
The Charlotte FC Pathway
With the addition of Crown Legacy FC, and the additional academy team joining the UPSL, here are the steps, or building blocks, as Barnes describes, that represent the Charlotte FC pathway:
Image courtesy of Charlotte FC
“We are looking at this as a collective organization,” says Barnes, on how the entire pathway will work together. “We are gonna continue to grow and build…and make sure there are synergies amongst our academy, our NEXT Pro team, and our first team, but even those are just pieces of a larger pie, and that’s Charlotte FC...making sure we are holding on to our core values and principles and everything ladders up into the goals of the first team”.
The Players and Playing Style
Crown Legacy FC plans on building their squad with many different players pulled from within the Charlotte FC academy system as well as from talent that has been scouted across the globe.
“That’s our north star is to develop talents internally,” says Barnes, on utilizing the academy pathway to bring players up from the youth ranks to the NEXT Pro team. Barnes continues by saying that the team also plans on identifying prospects outside of the academy, both domestically and internationally, that have first team potential. “Fans will be able to see and follow their progression, whether that’s with the academy and then NEXT Pro and the first team, or it’s an international prospect that we bring into the fold”.
When asked about how the different teams within the Charlotte FC pathway will play, Barnes mentions the importance of organizational alignment and maintaining communication within each step of the pathway to help build a recognizable playing style. “When you’re looking at our teams play there’s a certain identity in terms of the way they play…style of play, player profiles, and we’re aligned in terms of the types of players we want to bring into the organization and players we want to be able to move from NEXT Pro side to the first team”.
When and Where Will Crown Legacy FC Play?
MLS NEXT Pro games will be played primarily on Fridays and Sundays, with an occasional weekday game. This schedule is intentionally set to differ from the Wednesday and Saturday schedule of MLS, so that fans are able to keep up with both clubs.
There will be 28 games played; 14 home and 14 away. The schedule has not yet been finalized, but games are expected to start the weekend of March 24th.
Crown Legacy FC games will be played at the Mecklenburg County Sportsplex in Matthews. All tickets will be sold at a $15 general admission rate. Season tickets can be purchased at a $12 per ticket rate. Charlotte FC season ticket holders will be able to purchase season tickets at a $10 per ticket rate.
MLS NEXT Pro matches will be streamed on Apple TV as a part of the partnership package between Apple and MLS.
Meet and Greet
There is also going to be a meet and greet where fans and media will get an opportunity to meet Barnes, head coach José Tavares, and a few of the players.
Date and Time: Sunday February 5th, from 1:30PM-3:30PM
Location: Seaboard Brewing in Matthews, NC
MLS NEXT Pro Background
MLS NEXT Pro’s inaugural season began in 2022 and included 21 teams; 20 were MLS based. Rochester New York FC was the one independent club that participated in the inaugural season. The Columbus Crew 2 won the first ever MLS NEXT Pro Cup by beating St. Louis CITY2 in the final.
In 2023, seven more MLS teams will add NEXT Pro teams; Atlanta United, Austin FC, Charlotte FC (Crown Legacy FC), LA Galaxy, LAFC, Nashville SC (Huntsville City FC), and New York Red Bulls.
The independent club Carolina Core FC will join in 2024 and a team in Cleveland will be added in 2025.
Besides being a professional league that is geared towards player development, MLS NEXT Pro also aims to provide a space for American soccer to help become innovators for the sport. This has been done by testing various rules at the MLS NEXT Pro level to see how they work, and whether they might be worth implementing at the MLS level.
There are two rules that were implemented last summer, and will continue to be used through the start of this season. These are the off-field treatment rule and a variation to the red card suspension rule.
The off-field treatment rule goes into effect when a player is on the ground for an injury longer than 15 seconds. If this occurs then medical staff are instructed to come onto the field and help the player to the side lines where they are to receive medical treatment. The player must wait on the sideline for three minutes before returning to the field. One of the main purposes for this rule is to try and reduce the gamesmanship that is quite common throughout the world of soccer.
In MLS NEXT Pro if a player receives a red card suspension, that suspension goes into effect the next time that player plays the team he received the red card against. Instead of the suspension going into effect his next game. This rule was put in place so that teams who were fouled by a red card offense are the beneficiaries of the disciplinary action, rather than whichever team is next on the disciplined team’s schedule.
“The initial data the league got was very positive and I think they want to go through, collect some more data points just in terms of how beneficial and effective those rules are starting with the commencement of the season” says Barnes “The league is very dedicated to this component…trying to push the game forward and find ways to make the game better”.