CHARLOTTE, N.C. (CHARLOTTE SPORTS LIVE) — Charlotte FC defeated Inter Miami and Lionel Messi 1-0 on Saturday and clinched their seat in the playoffs.
Roughly 66,000 fans packed into Bank of America Stadium for what turned out to be one of the most anticipated games in franchise history.
“When you bring in someone as big as Messi, and then a playoff berth potential, it’s a recipe for a huge attendance number,” said CLTFC fan Jackson Currin.
A team spokesperson said that while Saturday’s game did not break any attendance records, the Queen City still holds the record for the highest-attended non-neutral site MLS game. That was set in 2022, during the team’s inaugural home game.
Fans traveled from far and wide, not only to watch the Crown compete for a chance at their first playoff appearance but also to see Messi do what he does best. The all-star, often hailed as the greatest soccer player of all time, did not play when CLTFC took on Miami on the road Wednesday.
“My husband is from Argentina, and they just won the World Cup this year. We wanted to see Messi and celebrate this special moment. It took about four hours to get here. We came up yesterday,” said Messi fan Alexandra Garcia, who traveled to the match with her family.
Whether fans went to the game to see Messi or to root for the home team, it was a recipe for success as far as city-wide benefits.
“Seeing how many Charlotte fans there are here and around us, it’s so impressive. This is a new team and they obviously have created such a fan base early on,” said soccer fan Michael Brackett.
For those celebrating the victory and CLTFC’s first playoff appearance, it was a historic game. But even if the team had lost, fans said just seeing Messi on the pitch was good enough.
“To see one of the greatest players to ever touch the pitch is something that you don’t get to see every day. It’s a very – it’s an honor. And it’s an experience I wouldn’t trade,” said Currin.