In a press conference Tuesday, the Carolina Panthers organization said it signed a deal with Relevant Sports Group, which runs the International Champions Cup tournament, bringing elite European soccer to Charlotte for the next five years. The announcement comes 11 days before Bank of America Stadium hosts a match between England’s Arsenal FC and Italy’s AFC Fiorentina. The agreement marks Relevant’s first extended contract with any host city.
The International Champions Cup is an annual pre-season soccer tournament in which prominent European clubs compete in exhibition matches across the United States, Canada and Mexico. Charlotte has hosted five matches since 2014.
“Charlotte is a soccer city, and today is a validation of that,” said Tom Glick, president of the Carolina Panthers. “It really is a validation that Charlotte has always been, and has been for many years, a soccer city.”
Venue selection is a very competitive process with multiple cities vying to host the games and reap their economic benefits. The last time Charlotte hosted the ICC, it generated an economic impact of $20 million and more than half of attendees came from out of town, according to Thomas Murray, CEO of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.
Relevant also announced Charlotte will hold the 2019 House of Soccer at Romare Bearden Park on July 19 and 20, which is expected to draw tens of thousands of soccer enthusiasts. The fan festival will feature live music, freestyle clinics, soccer contests, fan prep zones and a celebrity scrimmage. Celebrities including Odell Beckham Jr., David Beckham, Nicki Minaj and Draymond Green participated or showed up at previous House of Soccer events in Miami and Los Angeles.