Charlotte FC

Charlotte FC 2022 MLS season preview: Tactics, predicted XI, predictions

Chris Smith
Charlotte FC are preparing for their first-ever MLS season. | Image: Matthew Burt.
Charlotte FC are preparing for their first-ever MLS season. | Image: Matthew Burt. /

After years of preparation, Charlotte FC are finally ready to begin their Major League Soccer adventure.

Expansion years are never easy - just ask the likes of FC Cincinnati and Minnesota United. But MLS' newest club can draw on the success stories of Atlanta United, LAFC, and Nashville SC for inspiration.

It's a whole new group of players and anything is possible. So, here's everything you need to know about Charlotte FC ahead of the 2022 MLS season, including tactics, key players, and predictions.

Charlotte FC: 3 things to know...

  • Charlotte FC are owned by American investor David Tepper, who also owns NFL side Carolina Panthers.
  • CLTFC were supposed to begin play in 2021 but had their MLS debut delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The club are the very first professional sports team to hire a 'chief fan officer', who will be “responsible for fostering and maintaining a direct relationship with fans to ensure they are engaged and supported", in Charlotte FC's own words.

Charlotte FC transfer activity

Transfers in

  • Karol Swiderski (from PAOK, $5m)
  • Jordy Alcivar (from LDU Quito, $3m)
  • Vinicius Mello (from Internacional, $1.8m)
  • Kristijan Kahlina (from Ludogorets, $1.2m)
  • Jaylin Lindsey (from Sporting KC, $325k)
  • Pablo Sisniega (from LAFC, $50k)
  • Christian Fuchs (from Charlotte Independence, free transfer)
  • Yordy Reyna (from DC United, free transfer)
  • Harrison Afful (from Columbus Crew, free transfer)
  • Adrian Zendejas (from Minnesota United, free transfer)
  • Chris Hegardt (from Georgetown University, free transfer)
  • Daniel Rios (from Nashville SC, $350k)
  • Ismael Tajouri-Shradi (from NYCFC, Expansion Draft)
  • Anton Walkes (from Atlanta United, Expansion Draft)
  • Joseph Mora (from DC United, Expansion Draft)
  • Tristan Blackmon (from LAFC, Expansion Draft)
  • McKinze Gaines (from Austin FC, Expansion Draft)
  • George Marks (SuperDraft)
  • Kyle Holcomb (SuperDraft)
  • Ben Bender (SuperDraft)
  • Christian Makoun (from Inter Miami, Undisc.)
  • Alan Franco (from Atletico Mineiro, loan)
  • Cristian Ortiz (from Tijuana, loan)
  • Guzman Corujo (free agent)
  • Sergio Ruiz (from Racing Santander, Undisc.)
  • Brandt Bronico (from Chicago Fire, free transfer)
  • Riley McGree (from Adelaide United, Undisc.)
  • Jan Sobocinski (from LKS Lodz, $2m)
  • Adam Armour (from FC Nürnberg, Undisc.)

Transfers out

  • Riley McGree (to Middlesbrough, Undisc.)
  • Tristan Blackmon (to Vancouver Whitecaps, $475k)
  • Ismael Tajouri-Shradi (to LAFC, $400k)

Miguel Angel Ramirez: Tactics and style of play

Right from the start, Charlotte FC have made a commitment to playing attacking soccer that will entertain their fans.

"We're going to have a very pressing style of play," club president Nick Kelly told 90min in October. "Our manager truly believes in the fact that if we have a pressing style, that will be exciting for our fans and help us score a ton of goals."

Head coach Miguel Angel Ramirez's preferred formation has usually been an attacking form of 4-3-3, with intense pressing, expansive full-backs, and an emphasis on getting the ball forward quickly. His hire makes a lot of sense here.

Right now, CLTFC are rather short on attacking options after a couple of deals fell through, so Ramirez will have his work cut out right from the start.

Charlotte FC predicted XI (4-3-3): Kahlina; Lindsay, Walkes, Sobocinski, Fuchs; Alcivar, Ruiz, Franco; Reyna, Swiderski, Ortiz.

Who are Charlotte FC's key players?

Karol Swiderski

Charlotte FC have so far struggled to land all the attacking pieces they wanted, making striker Karol Swiderski's job all the more important. The 25-year-old scored 35 goals and assisted another 14 during a 134-game spell with PAOK prior to joining Charlotte, helping them win the Greek Super League and two Greek Cups. He has a solid record at international level with Poland, as well, scoring six times in 14 senior caps so far.

Swiderski is obviously a clinical striker, but also has the high work ethic required to fit Ramirez's pressing style. He'll have to hit the ground running quickly in MLS to ensure his new team don't fall by the wayside in year one.

Anton Walkes

All things considered, the outcome of CLTFC's maiden voyage in MLS might just come down to how resolute they are defensively. The club have made some good additions to their backline but perhaps most impressive was securing Anton Walkes.

His exclusion from Atlanta United's protected list for the Expansion Draft shocked many, not least the player himself, but it was definitely to Charlotte's gain. Walkes was a rock for the Five Stripes last season, playing 33 of their 34 regular-season games and even wearing the captain's armband on a number of occasions.

The Englishman is calm on the ball, but ruthless in the tackle and strong in the air. It'll be up to him to marshall the CLTFC backline.

Sergio Ruiz

Sergio Ruiz has had a mixed career so far, flourishing at times in the Spanish lower leagues, while struggling a little in the second tier. But there's clear talent there and Ruiz did perform well in the Segunda on loan at Las Palmas in 2020/21, scoring five goals and assisting another six.

Ruiz is a player Ramirez is familiar with due to their Spanish heritage and Las Palmas affiliations, which could make him an important leader in the group.

The 27-year-old is a graceful player with an eye for goal but by far, his most important task will be to supply bullets for Swiderski and Charlotte FC's other forwards.

Charlotte FC 2022 season prediction

Make no mistakes about it, Charlotte FC have a monumental task ahead of them. All expansion teams do. Their success in 2022 won't be measured by whether or not they make the Playoffs, though that would be nice, of course. Rather, it'll be the style of play, the club's connection with the fans, and the promise of a team that can grow.

If things go really well, expect CLTFC to battle on the fringes of the Playoff race. If it doesn't go to plan, they'll prop up the Eastern Conference and reboot for 2023.

Prediction: 14th in the Eastern Conference