by Cynthia Robbins Shah-Khan
Stumptown Athletic, a new professional soccer team, is planting roots in the south Charlotte area.
Stumptown Athletic is part of the National Independent Soccer Association, a new association that’s kicking off this fall with 10 teams across the U.S. It’s an open league, like most soccer leagues around the world, and follows that hyper-local global model. As your league improves, higher-level teams can join, providing more opportunities to advance to the highest level of competition in the world.
Charlotte sports marketing entrepreneur Casey Carr and Atlanta tax attorney Chris Graham will own and manage North Carolina’s new professional soccer club and team.
“Drop a soccer ball anywhere in the world and you’ll see magic. From the Matthews Sportsplex to the streets of New York City, from shanty towns in Cameroon to beaches in South America, kids and adults alike will smile and start to play,” Carr said at a team function on June 28. “Soccer – football – is a sport, but it’s also a way to come together. It’s a community. It’s love and friendship and bonding and friendly competition. That’s what I see for Stumptown Athletic. It’s kids and adults coming together to build bridges, set aside differences and enjoy each other.”
Stumptown Athletic is named for one of Matthews’ former names. When farmers first came to the Matthews area, they cleared so many trees in a short period of time, it was known as Stumptown. Stumptown was a symbol of progress, of family and of community and that local focus is what Stumptown Athletic is about.
“The south Charlotte area – including Matthews, Mint Hill, Stallings, Indian Trail – is a fast-growing region with a young, diverse population that is growing up playing soccer anywhere and everywhere they can – at parks, indoors, in their backyards, on playgrounds, on open fields and in the street,” Carr said. “We’re looking forward to building on that local momentum while bringing pro soccer to more and more people.”
The owners and fans own the league and clubs are closely tied to the community, so they don’t leave the area – that differs from franchises, which often move to different cities due to business or other decisions.
“We invested in NISA and we’re investing in the Charlotte region because we like what this league and this area stand for – player, youth, business, family and community development,” Carr said. “It’s a winning combination.”
Soccer has more than 43 million fans across the United States and is one of the only sports seeing increases in those numbers. Just recently, Charlotte hosted the CONCACAF Gold Cup matches – with more than 59,000,000 people packing Bank of America Stadium.
Graham, who heads The Graham Private Client Law Group in Atlanta, is the majority owner. The Private Client Law Group group focuses on tax minimization, fund structures and business planning for business owners, professional athletes and entertainers, among others.
“I built my legal career by helping others make successful investments including professional sports, media and entertainment,” says Graham. “I’m excited about investing in NISA and growing the future of the game in Charlotte.”
Daily operations of the new team will be led by Carr, the group’s minority investor, who also runs a successful youth soccer franchises in Charlotte along with his wife, Kristy, a former teacher for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
In 2018, Carr launched 1GK USA, which sells soccer-related merchandise online, including the friction soccer ball, a training device popular on Amazon. Carr has also coached boys and girls youth development teams for Charlotte United (now a part of Charlotte Soccer Academy), and the Carolina Rapids.
A former Division I soccer player at DePaul University in Chicago, Carr hails from St. Louis, the USA’s original soccer mecca, where he learned the hardscrabble style of soccer the city is known for playing in the working-class suburbs of north St. Louis County, where he grew up.
Ironically, given his life-long obsession with soccer, it was academics, not athletics, that opened the doors of DePaul to Carr, where he majored in finance and walked on his freshman year, only to earn a starting position and more scholarship dollars including Conference USA All Freshman team honors along the way.
Carr also met his wife, Kristy, a Chicago native, at DePaul. Now, they combine their loves of sports and their backgrounds in finance and education to create new businesses that help build healthier kids, families and communities.