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  • Grading Charlotte FC's 2023 signings

    By Brian Maurer Ashley Westwood (Photo courtesy of CJ Hellner) Charlotte FC’s second season was a roller coaster ride. Immense highs and lows have led the team to nearly the same spot as from the start; ninth in the Eastern Conference and getting ready for the next year with the need for a new head coach to call the shots. 2023 also started with an immense overhaul of the 30-man roster. 12 new signings were made in this calendar year. Now that the season is finished it is easier to look back objectively at how these new signings have faired and the look of the team going into 2024. The grades for each signing take into account their cost (roster spot, salary, transfer fee, etc), production, role-fit, and potential. Cost is a unique category in MLS because the roster rules and salary budget are capable of punishing a team in a way that most other leagues don’t. Players who don’t match their cost with production create a massive opportunity cost that can weigh a team back years. The relationship between production and cost becomes the most important when looking at how to rate a signing. Role-fit and potential also go hand in hand. A veteran signing who finds a role in the club enhances the team's potential because they check a box and allow the club to focus on improving other areas of the roster. A young player who flashes their potential can carve out a role that they then fit into, which also improves the club. All of these factors are considered when reviewing the 12 signings from 2023*. Brandon Cambridge Cost: $75k salary, and is on a Homegrown contract who only takes up a supplemental roster spot. He cost $50k in GAM in his trade from Vancouver. He came in at a low cost that is fitting for a supplemental roster. Production: Cambridge provided a winning brace for the first team and provided goals and assists (4g/4a in nine starts) with Crown Legacy FC. Role-fit: Was a regular on the bench for Charlotte FC. He was used as a substitute sparingly throughout the season. About what one would expect from a homegrown prospect in his first campaign. Potential: For year two Cambridge will likely be aiming to stay primarily with the first team instead of bouncing back down to Crown Legacy FC. Earning more rotational minutes and perhaps a debut start would be a solid jump. Grade: B+ A low-cost signing who shows potential moving forward and who has already flashed on the first team. The only thing left for Cambridge is to solidify himself into the rotation. If he does that he is an A pickup. Hamady Diop Cost: $75k salary, takes up an international spot and is on a Generation Adidas contract on the supplemental roster. The major cost was the $400k in GAM ($200k paid in 2024) that Charlotte traded to St. Louis City to move up in the SuperDraft to pick Diop first overall. Production: Diop’s production was primarily limited to a handful of starts for Crown Legacy FC. He showed some flashes at left back and did tally a couple of assists for the development team. Role-fit: Diop currently has no role with the first team. A new coach should provide him with a new opportunity to make up for year one. Potential: Charlotte FC’s Front Office traded up to first because they saw a high-level prospect in Diop. It’s now up to him to find the minutes and opportunity to show us. Grade: D The substantial cost (GAM and international roster spot) for Diop put a bit of extra pressure on him to show his potential. So far that potential has not been observed enough. It also didn’t help that Christian Lattanzio tainted Diop’s season by subbing him off after coming on for 15 minutes. Lattanzio likely didn’t rate his potential the same as the Front Office. Year two will be an opportunity for Diop to have a fresh start. We will see if he can wipe his slate clean and go again. Patrick Agyemang Cost: $67k salary and is on the supplemental roster. Charlotte traded $50k GAM and their 2024 first-round pick to Colorado to move back into the first round to get Agyemang. Production: Four goals in all competitions for the first team. He also had 12 goal contributions for Crown Legacy FC. Role-fit: Agyemang forced his way into the first team with impact performances off the bench. He has no business getting sent back down to the development team. Crown Legacy has little more to offer him. His role became a rotational substitute down the stretch. That should be maintained this year and he should also be putting pressure on starters. He could also win a starting spot in year two. Potential: The 23-year-old striker looks like he has the potential to not only win the starting spot in Charlotte, but he looks capable of being one of the top strikers in MLS. His ability was on full display with his goal against NYRB in the play-in game. He has a soft touch on the ball that helps keep it tight to his body. He can then use his length to hold off defenders. That combination is unguardable in the penalty area. Most defenders have no chance against a player who is as big or bigger than they are and who can also control the ball well. Agyemang is in the driver's seat of his scoring potential. Grade: A- Agyemang showed he is capable of playing at an MLS level. He looks like he could win a starting job in Charlotte. Any time an MLS club finds a potential starter in the SuperDraft that is a huge win. If Agyemang can take that next step and become a productive week-in, week-out starter this will be the best trade in Charlotte FC’s short history. Nick Scardina Cost: $67k salary and is on the supplemental roster. Selected 40th overall in the SuperDraft. Production: 25 starts for Crown Legacy FC (third most minutes on the team). In those starts, he had seven goal contributions (3g/4a). He was also second on the team in key passes with 27. According to American Soccer Analysis’ goals added (G+) stat, Scardina was the fifth-best fullback in MLS NEXT Pro. Role-fit: Has not earned a first team role. Established himself as one of the key pieces on the development team. Potential: Scardina has shown flexibility and teachability by adjusting to a new position at full back and thriving in that role. Now the question is whether he can make those traits work to earn an opportunity with the first team. Grade: B The low cost of a second-round draft pick makes the acquisition a win simply if the player can earn and maintain a spot on the roster. Scardina has done that with his work for Crown Legacy FC. This pick becomes a huge win if Scardina can work his way into the first team depth chart. Andrew Privett Cost: $67k salary and is on the supplemental roster. He was drafted 69th overall (third round) in the SuperDraft. Production: Changed positions and became a starting center back for the first team. He earned 11 MLS starts with Charlotte and another eight with Crown Legacy FC. Privett and Adilson Malanda had five clean sheets in their 16 starts together. Charlotte allowed only 12 goals in the 11 regular season matches that Privett started. Calculated out over an entire season that rate would equal around 37 goals against. That rate would be good enough for third-best in MLS. (Photo courtesy of CJ Hellner) Role-fit: At this point, Privett has done just about all you can ask for to earn a spot in the squad. He is currently a starter, but that could quickly change with a new coach and the winter window. The third-round draft pick will likely have to fight his way back into the rotation to impress a new coach. Potential: Privett’s potential changed drastically with the midfielder changing positions to start at center back. He now has double-digit starts under his belt. His career trajectory could have altered with that change. He now has plenty of game time showing he can compete in MLS. MLS clubs are always looking for value options at center back. Privett could continue to find center back minutes in Charlotte or at another club in MLS. Grade: A It’s impossible to not give this pick top marks. A third-round pick who earns as many starts as Privett did is the definition of maximizing value. It’s an A+++ draft pick if Privett can maintain his position in the squad. Ashley Westwood Cost: $850k salary (TAM-Level) and is on the senior roster (international spot). He was acquired on a free transfer. Production: Westwood had over 2500 minutes in MLS (29 starts). This mark was good for fourth on the team in minutes. He also had seven goal contributions even though he generally played from a deeper-lying midfield position. He was also Charlotte FC’s leading provider with 33 key passes. Role-fit: Captain. He is likely the first name on the lineup sheet. His quality also allows the team some flexibility with how they play their midfield, since Westwood can play either a deep-lying six role or further up as a more progressive eight. He also made the right comments at the right time off the field. One of these moments was when he stated that it was “embarrassing” when the team kept dropping points. The leaders of a team need to be able to connect with the fans in the good times and the bad. His ability to be transparent and state his honest feelings will be appreciated by the fans and should challenge his teammates to rise to expectations. Potential: Westwood looked more fully recovered from his ankle injury as the season progressed, and with that came stronger performances by both himself and the team. His health will have direct ramifications on the club’s results. Westwood’s game could also be enhanced by more support in the midfield. He was often required to be both the deep-lying tempo-setting midfielder who could maintain and control possession, and the progressive provider further up the field. The potential of Westwood and the team would be higher if he is only tasked with one of these responsibilities. Grade: A- Charlotte was able to find their captain for the next couple of seasons on a free transfer. Given how strong Westwood was starting to look down the stretch there might still be another level to his game that Charlotte fans have yet to see. If Westwood can captain the team to performances that cover the full 90 minutes with far fewer dropped points this transfer becomes a solid A. Enzo Copetti Cost: $1.14m salary and is an international Designated Player. He was brought in at an estimated $6m transfer fee. Production: His goal production was far below what is needed from Designated Players in the modern MLS. He had 26 MLS appearances (23 starts) and only eight goal contributions (6g/2a). Giorgos Giakoumakis (17 goals), Duncan McGuire (13 goals), and Joao Klauss (10 goals) all debuted in MLS in 2023 and finished with more goals than Copetti. Teemu Pukki (10 goals), Billy Sharp (six goals), Chicho Arango (six goals), and Tomas Chancalay (six goals) were all signed in the summer window and were able to at least match Copetti’s goal production. (Photo courtesy of CJ Hellner) American Soccer Analysis’ G+ statistic doesn’t improve his stock as he was 14th in G+ among the 18 MLS strikers with at least 2000 minutes. One could argue that Copetti wasn’t receiving the necessary service to have more goal production. It's difficult to hold this argument up as Karol Swiderski was able to find twice as many goals. Agyemang also was able to find some goals and he was barely getting 15 minutes a game. Role-fit: To maintain a starting spot in the squad Copetti will have to find goal production. If not he could find his place taken by Agyemang. Potential: Copetti is just a year removed from a 20+ goal tally in Argentina. If he can find that goalscoring form that made him a record-setting transfer for Charlotte FC then the club’s potential increases a ton. An in-form Copetti could help the wingers get hot as well. Something we saw from Kerwin Vargas in small glimpses when the two South American forwards played together. Grade: C- This grade almost feels too high for how inconsistent Copetti was this season. However, there is an argument that Copetti’s endless motor and off-ball runs have helped Vargas find some scoring form. While Swiderski has been able to find goal contributions for himself, it’s more difficult to see how his performances have improved the form of his teammates. If Copetti can gel in the new coach's system, he could turn this rating around substantially. Bill Tuiloma Cost: $460k salary on the senior roster. $800k in GAM ($300k in 2024) was traded to Portland for Tuiloma. Production: In his 15 starts The Crown allowed 25 goals. Across a season, that would equate to around 57 goals against. When comparing his goals against Privett and Malanda’s 11 MLS games to close out the season the difference was stark. As mentioned earlier, Privett and Malanda allowed 12 goals against in their 11 MLS games as a center back pairing. That equates to 37 goals against across a season. Privett statistically had a far better year than Tuiloma. Of course, part of this could be Lattanzio’s method for using center backs. Role-fit: Lost his place in the squad as the season progressed and poor showings continued. By the end of the season, he was a sparingly used substitute. Tuiloma is another player who will be looking for a fresh start with a new coach. Potential: Tuiloma is still just one year out from being considered a dark horse for Defender of the Year in 2022. There was a reason Charlotte FC had to pay such a premium in allocation money for his services, that reason was Tuiloma had been on a positive trajectory for the past couple of years before joining The Crown. He is an MLS experienced center back who is more than capable of finding his way back into a starting role. Whether that is in Charlotte or transferred out, the New Zealander will likely find an opportunity to earn a starting spot. Grade: D The Tuiloma trade was the most GAM Charlotte FC has spent on a player in the club’s short history. The expectation for him was to fit in as an immediate starter. By the midpoint of the season, he lost his spot to a third-round SuperDraft pick. The amount of allocation money spent on Tuiloma could impact Charlotte’s winter window plans. Justin Meram Cost: $494k salary and is on the senior roster. The Crown traded $200k in GAM ($100k in 2024) to Real Salt Lake. Production: Meram began his tenure as an every-game starter, but as the season wore on he faded into a rotational spot starter. He finished the year with nine goal contributions in all competitions (4g/5a). Role-fit: Meram’s on-field role diminished throughout the season leading to the team. The veteran winger’s presence and leadership are appreciated by the club as they are in negotiations for a new contract. Meram may still have a role with the club even if it doesn’t include regular minutes. (Photo courtesy of Cisco's Art) Potential: What Meram could provide moving forward is leadership to a roster that is full of young talent. That inexperience led to major let-ups throughout the season. Meram could continue to provide a level head in the locker room and some stability to the squad. Stability was something that was missing far too often in 2023. Grade: B A solid veteran signing. He gave the team a winning boost when he first signed, and then continued to rotate through the remainder of the season. Scott Arfield Cost: $438k salary and joined the senior roster on a free transfer. Arfield was signed to an international contract. Production: Arfield showed flashes of his scoring potential with three goals in all competitions. His minutes through the final stretch of the season were limited so his ability to produce was equally limited. Whether this was the responsibility of Arfield not earning minutes in training or if Lattanzio just opted for a different direction is difficult to say. Arfield’s minutes in 2024 should provide better insight into the issues with his usage this past season. Role-fit: The Canadian international became a rotational piece through the finish of the season. He will likely serve as competition to push the other midfielders looking for regular minutes in 2024. Potential: Arfield is another veteran who should provide more stability in the locker room. Grade: C Charlotte picked up a veteran midfielder on a free transfer. His production was limited as he didn’t fill an impactful role down the stretch. The one real issue with the Arfield transfer is that he takes up a valuable international roster spot as a rotational player. Brecht Dejaegere Cost: $999k salary and is an international signing on the senior roster. He was a free transfer but will require allocation money to buy down part of his salary as he is a TAM-Level player. Production: In six starts (he had a seventh start but he came out injured early) Dejaegere had two goal contributions (1g/1a). What is more concerning about Dejaegere’s production is the limited number of key passes he had on the season (five). That number of key passes per start won’t improve Charlotte FC’s quality in the attacking third throughout an entire season. His creativity will have to show up stronger in 2024 for Charlotte to achieve their goals. (Photo courtesy of CJ Hellner) Role-fit: Dejaegere looks to be an every-week starter. When available he was regularly called upon down the stretch. It was slightly concerning that he wasn’t given the nod during the crucial Decision Day match against Inter Miami or the play-in match against the New York Red Bulls. This could have been a tactical decision by Lattanzio who is no longer the coach, so Dejaegere’s role might not be clearly defined until the new coach comes in. One would expect based on his salary that he should be in the lineup getting 2000+ minutes if healthy. Potential: The Belgian has trophy-winning experience. Dejaegere will need to bring a winning veteran mentality to the club. He will also be expected to lead from the front on the field with plenty of goals and creativity. Double-digit goal contributions will likely be the standard for a player in his position with his quality. Besides the final product, he should also be a player who can make the players around him better. If Dejaegere acclimates well he should improve the production of other attackers like Vargas, Agyemang, and Copetti. Grade: C While there were glimpses of Dejaegere’s quality through the final stretch of the season, the end product was not there consistently enough to convince anyone that he is the creative solution that Charlotte has been missing. That will be the expectation, but as of now his ability in the attacking third has not been on display enough to warrant much praise based on the pricetag. This may seem harsh for a player who scored one of the goals of the season, however, one brilliant goal still only counts as one. Dejaegere needs to show that he can bring many more goals for his rating to improve. Jere Uronen Cost: $498k salary and was brought in on a transfer fee estimated to be around $600k. Uronen is on the senior roster and takes up an international roster spot. Production: Uronen had nine MLS regular season appearances (seven starts). In those seven starts, The Crown allowed only five goals and they kept four clean sheets. In a small sample size, he also demonstrated a strong passing ability. According to American Soccer Analysis’ xPass stat, Uronen has the most passes per 100 passes over expected in the middle third of the field. Since he is a defender what this statistic suggests is that Uronen is one of the best at distributing the ball forward into the midfield. This could also mean he is one of the best defenders at positioning himself in the midfield and then from that more advanced position he continues to distribute the ball with efficient passing. (Photo courtesy of CJ Hellner) Role-fit: Uronen is currently the only true left back on the roster. Limited competition and his quality make him an automatic starter as things currently stand. The Crown could easily be looking for more depth at the position but quality left backs are hard to come by and can get expensive. Uronen’s current role could easily see him exceed 3000 minutes in 2024. Potential: Uronen’s role should continue to be stability in defense, with the ability to progress the ball into the attack. Defensive stability will be especially key as Charlotte could easily have an inexperienced backline again going into 2024. Grade: B Charlotte FC found a solution at left back at a relatively cheap price. Any time a team can find a potential multiyear solution at a position that is difficult to fill at a relative value is a win. Uronen’s rating as a transfer could improve immensely if he also shows himself to be a leader along the backline and if he can also produce more goalscoring opportunities from the left. *Salaries were found on MLSPA. Transfer fees are estimates and found from a variety of different sources. Roster designations were found on and

  • NWSL continues to grow approaching its 12th season

    By Tyler Trent Photo courtesy of Laura Stroud/LensByLaura With the 11th season of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) finished, fans anticipate the biggest season yet for the 2024 season. The NWSL has expanded from the original eight teams in 2013 to 14 in 2024, including two new expansion teams - a return of Utah Royals and a new California club, Bay FC. However, Boston has also been confirmed as the 15th expansion team for the 2026 season, and a currently unannounced 16th team will be arriving sometime in the near future. Earlier this month, The Athletic reported a regular season attendance of over 1.2 million, which was a 26% increase over the previous season. The median attendance grew by 40% compared with last season. The single-game NWSL attendance record was broken multiple times this season, ultimately in Megan Rapinoe’s final regular season game for OL Reign, with 34,130 supporters in Seattle. Earlier in the season, OL Reign recorded an attendance of 42,054, but that was part of a doubleheader with MLS club Seattle Sounders. Social impressions for the NWSL also continued to rise this year, with the league reporting an increase of 233% in video views across their social platforms in June. Along with the continued growth comes increased spending and investment. Reports suggest that the Seattle Sounders are looking to purchase OL Reign. Michelle Kang recently purchased the Washington Spirit, the North Carolina Courage continues to receive additional backing from investors, including names like tennis star Naomi Osaka among a host of other investors, and the Sacramento Kings ownership is reportedly in talks to buy the Portland Thorns, according to Sportico. The 2023 valuations for the 12 NWSL clubs can be found below. The two newest teams currently top the valuation list. Graphic and data courtesy of Sportico League commissioner Jessica Berman shared that the number of games with 10,000+ fans doubled from the previous season. A new four-year media deal was announced for the league with CBS, ESPN, Amazon, and Scripps for a combined value of $240 million. Commissioner Berman commented on the crucial opportunity to grow as a league, saying, “As we look ahead to 2024 and beyond, we are at an inflection point,” Berman said in her opening remarks. “We have our new media deals. You’ve heard us talk about how this is the beginning of our future. This is a moment not to be complacent. It’s a moment to invest for the future. It’s a moment that we don’t take for granted. We believe we have an unprecedented opportunity to grow this league and build for the future, which is what we are prepared to do." While there are debates on which league is currently the best in the world, Berman's goal is for NWSL to be that league. “Our aspiration is to be the best league in the world, and we’re prepared to make good decisions and investments that are necessary for us to make that a reality.” Access to professional opportunities in the United States will grow even more soon, with two others currently targeting their own professional leagues, the USL Super League and WPSL Pro League. While the details of the leagues and their status on the professional level are still undecided, creating more opportunities for players and fans across the country will help continue to elevate the game and, ultimately, the NWSL. Women's sports worldwide Women’s soccer has been setting new records at every turn for the last few seasons. Some of the most notable attendance records outside the NWSL include a 91,648 attended UEFA Women’s Champions League match hosted by Barcelona against Wolfsburg, another 91,000+ attended game against Real Madrid, and two 80,000+ attended games at Wembley for England's Lionesses. Women’s sports outside of soccer are also booming. The WNBA saw a 16% increase in attendance this season, the most fans attending games in the last 13 years. The University of Nebraska set the world record for a women’s team sport this season with 92,003 fans attending a volleyball game against Omaha hosted at Memorial Stadium. Women's college basketball has continued to grow in popularity with the rise of superstars like Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese, Elizabeth Kitley, and Paige Bueckers. Last year's national championship game brought in 9.9 million viewers on its way to becoming the most-viewed women’s college basketball game on record and the most-viewed college basketball game (men’s or women’s) ever on ESPN platforms.

  • Nimfasha Berchimas takes the international stage

    By Sam Vanolinda Berchimas (2nd from the right) with Diego Forlan (Center) at a tournament in Miami (Photo courtesy of NC Fusion) Nimfasha Berchimas. Remember the name. Charlotte FC has produced a Homegrown prospect who has been the talk of American soccer for the past week. The 15-year-old was the youngest player selected, and the youngest to score multiple goals at the U-17 World Cup since Freddy Adu in 2003. Berchimas, a High Point native, is barely past middle school and is already representing his country and dominating the competition against players two years older than him. He scored three goals in two wins versus South Korea and Burkina Faso. With every goal Berchimas scores, he punctuates it with an impressive standing backflip celebration, akin to his senior teammate Kerwin Vargas. With every flip, he creates more waves within the football world. He has already shot up to the top of the list of prospects that the club has produced – garnering interest from Bayern Munich, a team that invited him to spend some time at their academy last summer. We caught up with Jason Osborne, Berchimas’ head coach at the U-17 level at Charlotte FC, who described the 15-year-old as: “An electric winger who can create chances and score with either foot. His change of pace and deception make him a lethal threat in the final third. Watching his growth over the last two years we can see he is still improving with much more to come.” Born in Burundi, Berchimas moved to Highpoint, NC at a young age and started his career at Greensboro-based NC Fusion. Photo courtesy of Charlotte FC He signed with Charlotte FC in 2020, and in November 2022 became the sixth youngest player to sign a Homegrown contract in MLS history at 14 years and 268 days old. In 2023, he played eight games for Crown Legacy, scoring one goal. Academy director Bryan Scales thinks the staff and culture around the club is the perfect place for him to grow as a player and a person: “It's not always easy for young players to stay focused on the right things when they receive increased attention.” Scales said. “Thankfully. José Tavares and his staff with Crown Legacy FC have plenty of experience with high-potential young players. They keep him focused on developing the right professional habits, the right mentality, while also giving him room to grow on and off the field.” So what does the future look like for this ultra-talented winger? If he continues to grow at this rate European clubs like Bayern Munich will come knocking at the door. But right now his focus is on Charlotte FC and progressing toward first-team minutes. “Nimfa is still very young, so I’d expect the next steps would include getting back into the Crown Legacy and First Team environment in January in preparation for the ’24 season.” Scales added. “Competing on a daily basis against senior professional players is always challenging. For a teenager to do that while balancing his high school classes....he’ll have a full plate!” Finding prospects like Berchimas illustrates the youth-based mindset for the future of Charlotte FC. The success of Crown Legacy last season and the increasing number of exciting young players in the club points toward a bright future in the Queen City. Photo courtesy of Charlotte FC “We are three and a half years into our academy and made a number of enhancements over the last year.” Scales said. “With the support from ownership and the alignment of our pathway with Crown Legacy FC through to the First Team, we are pleased with the progress so far. Developing young players takes time and patience, so to have one of our Homegrown Players making an impact at an international event is a good sign.” Berchimas made a third appearance in the competition against France in the final group stage game for the US U-17 team, it was a 30-minute substitute appearance in a 0-3 loss, but the U.S. will continue in the U-17 World Cup in the round of 16 against Germany, Nov. 21. It’s hard to say when we will see Berchimas see First Team Charlotte FC action. Scales added that they can’t “Microwave,” his development – the team will be patient and give him time to grow into competition against much older and more skilled opposition. However long it takes Berchimas to make his debut in front of the Bank of America Stadium Crowd, he is a player that any Charlotte FC fan should keep an eye on, it will be exciting to watch his electric wing play as he develops over the next couple of years.

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