Charlotte FC

How supporting Charlotte FC helped Heidi Underhill following tragic loss

Chris Smith
Heidi Underhill with her late boyfriend, Brenton McCaskill.
Heidi Underhill with her late boyfriend, Brenton McCaskill. /
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Walking around the tailgate at Charlotte FC's first-ever home match in March, the search was on for a particular fan.

"Oh, you're looking for Heidi, the one with the crash helmet," 90min was told multiple times.

"You mean the flipping girl?" others asked.

The subject of the search was Heidi Underhill, a member of CLTFC supporters group Southbound and Crown, who had been filmed a week earlier falling down multiple rows of seats celebrating what she thought was her club's first-ever goal - though it was later ruled out for offside.

Eventually, paths were crossed. And knowing little about Heidi apart from the video and the fact that she was, indeed, wearing a crash helmet to avoid injury should she crowd surf again, a fun conversation with just another excited fan waiting to witness history at Bank of America Stadium was expected.

"We started from South Carolina Spurs, which was a (Tottenham) supporters group in South Carolina," Underhill told 90min. "My boyfriend (Brenton McCaskill) was very involved in that and he founded with two other people the Southbound and Crown group before Charlotte FC even had a name. So he was super involved, a founding member."

But what Underhill shared next was sobering - a story making it clear 90min was not talking with 'just another excited fan'.

"Brenton was tragically murdered in a home invasion at my house and he actually died protecting us. Legend. He's a hero," said Underhill.

McCaskill and Underhill were woken by a crash in the middle of the night in December 2020. The noise had come from the empty bedroom of Underhill's 17-year-old son, Jake, who was spending the night out.

While McCaskill went to investigate, Underhill rushed to check on Jake's twin, Josh, and his girlfriend.

The family heard the sounds of fighting in the other bedroom but by the time they arrived in there, the room was empty. Underhill found McCaskill outside, unconsciously leaning against the house.

While she'd heard the fight, Underhill was unaware that a separate intruder had shot McCaskill twice in the back of the head. The police quickly arrived and administered CPR, but McCaskill tragically passed away. Four men were arrested in connection with the break-in, with three now serving jail time - including one on a 32-year sentence for second-degree murder, burglary, and conspiracy.

"I fell into a deep depression and realized that the only thing that I was feeling comfortable about or felt like I wanted to get out of bed for was to continue his legacy with Southbound and Crown," Underhill recalled.

Underhill's Southbound and Crown family helped set up a fundraiser in McCaskill's honor named 'Because of Brenton'. The organization aims to provide access to affordable sports for young people in the area.

"We've gotten donations just rolling in from all over the world from various soccer groups and Spurs groups," said Underhill. "We just want to continue his legacy and let every youth that can't afford it to play soccer."

Having that purpose and the support of Southbound and Crown helped pull Underhill from her lowest ebb at a time when it would have been easy to be overcome by grief.

"Having that, and then having this group that just embraced me and took care of me and became my family is what dragged me out of a depression. And I'm able to keep his legacy alive, which is what keeps me going."

McCaskill and Underhill were among the very first Charlotte FC fans to pre-order season tickets in 2020, doing so before the club had a name, crest, or true identity.

The club's first home match obviously became a day marked on their calendars, counting down until they could show out with over 74,000 of their friends in a celebration of soccer.

Naturally, circumstance meant Saturday, March 5 2020 was something so much more for Underhill.

"This is so emotional for me. I have been waiting for this day now for two years, since 2020, when Brenton was talking about it and put down a deposit for our tickets before the club even had a name," said Underhill.

"We've just been waiting on this and so much has gone into this. I just feel very emotional. I was a part of painting the first tifo in Charlotte's history ever. I'm a board member for a supporters group in Charlotte. That's going to continue after us. We're ready...it's just very emotional. There's been a lot of hard work that went into it from all the supporters groups."

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