CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Two 45-minute halves were served up to passionate Major League Soccer fans Friday. However, before the clock started running, pre-match festivities attracted hungry fans with money to spend.
WBTV was at a recent match between DC United and Atlanta United. Game on means gear on, and the DC United team store isn't the only home field venue luring the faithful.
From the in-demand delights of food trucks to corn hole competitions, RFK stadium lures those loyal to DC United, but also visiting soccer fans from Georgia here to support Atlanta United.
Fans from the south like Austin Beacham are hoping Charlotte will be awarded an MLS franchise.
"It would be great to have a team that doesn't have to make me spend 12 hours to get to a game," Beacham said.
In Washington, an average of more than 20,000 fans per-match keep the turnstiles moving, and the front office happy. The team's Chief Financial Officer, Michael Schoenbrun, beams with pride that DC United was one founding organizations in the league during 1996.
"If you look at attendance numbers from MLS, they're higher than the NHL and NBA," he said.
The play-by-play voice of DC United's Dave Johnson has observed a paradigm shift in who fills the seats.
"This generation - this is their sport," Johnson said.
Major League Soccer may not have the same kind of reach as pro football, baseball or basketball, but supporters of the sport are impressed with the reach, especially with a new kind of maximum exposure.
"Soccer in DC - you can find 75 different channels," he said. "So the point now, it's unstoppable with the usage and the viewership. Soccer is here to stay in this country and only getting better."
DC fans following developments in Charlotte like Jon Denunzio are suggesting backers develop a brand that engages the community.
"It's going to be its own kind of unique fan experience," he said. "If Charlotte builds that, the fans will have a great time."
The next step in bringing pro soccer to the Queen City means navigating choppy waters politics and public dollars.