When I heard back in the spring that Arsenal would be coming to Charlotte for a pre-season match versus Roma, I immediately bought tickets for myself and my nephew to attend (he lives in the Charlotte area).
It’s rare to see European clubs on US soil so it’s a fantastic opportunity for American supporters to gather to see the team they support from afar live.
The last time Arsenal came to the states was in 2014 when they played a pre-season match versus the New York Red Bulls. Arsenal legend Thierry Henry was playing in New York so it was a must see for fans. There were Arsenal fans all over New York and the energy and camaraderie was amazing.
Roma had to pull out of the Charlotte match as they had to play Europa League qualifying matches. Filling in was Fiorentina; which was fine with me as I have attended a match in Florence before and root for them in Serie A.
There was a pre-match fan fest where there were soccer clinics, giveaways, musical acts and even an appearance from Megan Rapinoe.
Fans gathered at downtown bars before kickoff and there was a march by Arsenal fans to the stadium.
Then it was off to the match. It was close to 95 degrees, yet the match was scheduled to start at 6PM., It was obvious that the heat was going to factor into the game (especially for the players used to playing in the cold and rain of London).
Arsenal dominated play and a number of the young academy players were given the opportunity to show what they got. That they did. 20-year-old Eddie Nketiah and 19-year-old Joe Willock provided the goals to give Arsenal a 3-0 win.
It was great to see my team in person, but even better was to see the enthusiasm for soccer in the Charlotte area. There were tons of families at both the fan-fest and the match and it was great to see some of the kids wearing jerseys of the World Cup winning US women’s team.
It’s a great sign that the sport is truly taking off in the states and bringing people together.