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Crown Legacy's impact on Charlotte FC in 2024

By Brian Maurer

Andrew Privett (Photo courtesy of CJ Hellner/TopBin90)

The 2024 season has been a big year for many Charlotte FC players. The backline has seven clean sheets through their first 17 games. The Crown is in the top five in MLS in GA, only allowing 18.

Dean Smith’s role in building that compact backline has highlighted his value to the team, as he establishes a culture where everyone fights for each other on the field.

Ashley Westwood has also taken a step forward this year both on and off the field. His impact has been recognized through the supporters’ section and their raucous chanting of his name.

The accolades of a successful third campaign can be spread wide after the strong start through the first half of the season. One area that might be getting overlooked is the impact Crown Legacy FC has had on the first team.

While the development team is only starting their second season, there are already seven players who started their careers in Charlotte with Crown Legacy FC who have earned minutes with the first-team in 2024. Legacy players account for 45 of 187 possible starts through the first half of Charlotte’s season. That means 24% of all 2024 Charlotte FC starters rose through the Legacy ranks.

These former Legacy players aren’t just being given minutes because Smith is hyper-focused on playing youth. In some cases, they have been outperforming the veterans who were the set starters to begin the year.

Andrew Privett has locked down the starting job since last summer. His improvement over the past year led him to earn a new extended contract.

Patrick Agyemang’s potential has shown through, making Enzo Copetti expendable and opening up his Designated Player spot for the summer window. João Pedro has demonstrated that he can fill in as the backup left-back in multiple spot starts.

Nikola Petković and Iuri Tavares have filled in as rotational starters throughout the first half of the season. Charlotte FC’s xG-xGA has been higher when Tavares or Petković have been on the field than when they are off it. Indicating that at the very least when one of these two is on the field, their presence leads to more attacking volume which benefits the team, and limits the amount of attacking volume against them.

Building chemistry at Crown Legacy is paying off on the first-team

Agyemang, Petković, and Tavares have all been earning first-team starts, sometimes together. All three mentioned the value of the chemistry built during their time at Crown Legacy as a benefit to helping them adapt and play together at the next level.

“For us, it’s easy because last year we played together, so the connection, the chemistry is easy. [Agyemang] is an amazing player, [Petković] too is an amazing player. So for me, it’s easy to play with [Agyemang and Petković],” Tavares said on the time spent playing with his former Legacy teammates now that they are all on the first team.

At the beginning of May Petković and Agyemang had standout performances that were highlighted with them both scoring goals. Petković against the Portland Timbers, and Agyemang against Nashville SC.

“We understand each other’s game, we got to play a couple of games with each other at [Crown Legacy FC], now we train with each other every day, and I think there is going to be something really good there,” Agyemang said about playing with Petković after Charlotte FC’s victory against Nashville in early May.

“Before every game me and [Agyemang], we speak together, we know what we have to do. So if I run, he needs to stay, if he runs I need to stay, so that’s also important to speak outside of the pitch” said Petković about his relationship with Agyemang off the pitch and how that helps their movement play off of each other in games.

“The time spent together last year with Crown Legacy FC was invaluable for them to develop familiarity, friendship, and trust with each other,” said Assistant General Manager Bobby Belair. “Their strong relationship off the field definitely helps them perform better together on the field. Our coaching staff, across first-team and Crown Legacy FC, has pushed the right buttons to help their talent shine and we all believe there is plenty more potential in both of them.”

Tyger Smalls and Nimfasha Berchimas also made their first team debuts in 2024 after starting at Crown Legacy

Tyger Smalls was drafted this year and rotated into the Crown Legacy side for a few starts before joining the first team and becoming a regular off the bench. The rookie has now made an appearance in eight straight games with one start.

Nimfasha Berchimas has been rotated back to Legacy FC, but early on, he also was able to earn some first-team minutes days after his 16th birthday.

The foundations laid by Legacy FC are happening quickly and more players could be on their way to the first team

Time spent with the development team has helped all of these players prepare and quickly make an impact on the first team. 

“It’s been great to see the performances from all of our players who spent time with Legacy last year,” said Belair. “Andrew Privett, Iuri Tavares, Brandon Cambridge, and João Pedro all grew with their time with Crown Legacy FC. We’re proud that players from all different walks of life have been able to fit in, improve, and perform at the first-team level after only one year, in some cases less than a year.”

Winger Brandon Cambridge made his MLS debut with Charlotte in 2023 and was hurt during preseason this year. He recently made his first start during his rehab assignment with Legacy and could be the eighth Legacy player to earn first-team minutes in 2024.

Converted right-back Nick Scardina has been a standout performer for Crown Legacy this season, and could also be due for an MLS debut at some point this year or next. Another recent standout has been Aron John, who is an academy prospect yet to sign a homegrown contract. If he gets an offer, he could also be making a first-team debut at some point in the next year.

“This is really where these legacies begin. We’re excited for these players to really embark and begin that journey…laying the groundwork brick-by-brick as they continue to climb,” Crown Legacy FC President Darrius Barnes told Jorge Gonzales of TopBin90 at the beginning of Legacy’s inaugural campaign in 2023. Since that conversation, many players have laid the groundwork and begun the ascent to the first-team - a major feat as Legacy has only been playing for 15 months.

With two players earning starting positions with Charlotte FC, several more earning regular rotation minutes, and additional prospects currently climbing, the pathway to the first-team looks established.