Charlotte FC has found its big-time goal-scorer. What’s next for the club’s MLS roster

Taylor Banner/Charlotte FC
·6 min read

Charlotte FC sporting director Zoran Krneta recounted a recent phone call he had with former Poland men’s national team soccer coach Paulo Sousa. According to Krneta, the conversation went something like this:

“Paulo, Karol Świderski,” Krneta said, mentioning the name of one of Sousa’s former Polish players.

“What about him?” responded Sousa, who now coaches Flamengo, one of Brazil’s top clubs.

“Well, we like him,” Krneta said.

“Come on,” Sousa said, dismissing the notion that the striker would land in Charlotte. “He’s a Serie A (caliber) player, he’s Bundesliga (caliber). He’s not going to go to MLS.”

Krneta said that he told Sousa the deal with Świderski was essentially done and that he called to learn more about him. According to Krneta, Sousa spoke highly of Świderski, saying, “Amazing human being, amazing player,” and also, “I can’t believe that you got that player.”

Krenta shared the anecdote with pride Wednesday night at Bank of America Stadium, where a group of fans greeted Świderski as he walked onto the pitch for the first time as a Charlotte FC player. Overseas reports that Świderski was headed to Charlotte from Greek club PAOK FC picked up last week, but the team didn’t make the move official until Wednesday. Świderski, 25, flew to Charlotte on Monday.

“It’s just a testament to what we’re trying to do,” Krneta said. “(We’re) trying to bring the best possible players. We don’t take no for an answer and we’re trying to build a roster that we think is a competitive and winning roster.”

Świderski, a 35-time goal scorer for PAOK since 2019, said he saw the value in the move from overseas leagues.

“I can improve here,” Świderski said after taking in the view of the roughly 75,000-seat multi-purpose stadium. “I can always go back to Europe, but I’m so happy to be here now.”

The club finalized a deal worth around $5 million to bring the striker into the Major League Soccer expansion franchise through the 2025 season with an option for 2026, The Observer reported on Monday. He’ll be one of the team’s Designated Players, which is an MLS roster label that indicates a player’s salary and transfer fee exceed the league’s Maximum Salary Budget charge of $612,500 this year. Each team is able to add up to three Designated Players (or DPs) to their rosters, and teams are responsible for paying the amount of compensation above that player’s Salary Budget.

Put more simply and in American football terms, Charlotte FC paid big bucks for Świderski’s signature and introduced him with flair; Think of him like the team’s franchise quarterback.

“It’s a perfect fit for us,” Krneta said. “Perfect for what we’re trying to build here. He’s, first of all, a very, very good player at the prime of his career … Incredible human being, very humble, wants to come here … We want players who want to be here.”

Świderski indicated that the move to America was his “dream” and that he spoke with Polish players who made the MLS transition, including Patryk Klimala (New York Red Bulls), Adam Buksa (New England Revolution), Przemysław Frankowski (previously Chicago Fire) and Charlotte teammate Jan Sobociński. He said those conversations gave him the confidence to sign.

Charlotte FC was similarly sold on Świderski, whose technical ability and spatial awareness have made him an electric striker for Poland’s senior men’s national team since last year. He had an immediate impact on the pitch, scoring five goals in nine appearances during World Cup Qualifying matches in 2021. He totaled 135 appearances for PAOK, and won the 2018-19 Super League Greece title and two Greek Cups with the club.

“He’s a winner,” Krneta said. “ ... It’s a group of winners.”

Świderski highlighted his ability to play out of the box and his strong small game, which should mesh with the possession-based system that Charlotte FC head coach Miguel Ángel Ramírez is preaching in the first weeks of preseason training. Ramírez’s game model means quick passes, many touches and the involvement of the entire squad, and Charlotte FC targeted Świderski because it believes he’ll thrive in that system. There’s a month remaining before the club’s inaugural match Feb. 26 against D.C. United in Washington, D.C. Krneta said he feels confident about fielding “a very strong team.”

However, it’s a team that remains incomplete offensively. Charlotte FC is still aiming to fill its DP roster slots and is aggressively working to seal those deals. The club made a recent bid for U.S. men’s national team winger Paul Arriola, who landed in Dallas after D.C. completed a trade for up to $2.3 million in general allocation money (GAM), which was a domestic trade fee record. Charlotte FC retained its GAM, but is still in search of at least one or two more starting-level wingers.

“We’re looking for more,” Krneta said. “There will be more DPs. We have options and this is why we build the club and the roster in a way that we can cherry-pick (who we want), if you like, at the end of the roster-building.”

Charlotte is close to finalizing its latest negotiations with those players, Krneta said, declining to provide further details. With the addition of Świderski, Charlotte FC has one unfilled international roster slot it’s able to use, and more could open if other international players are able to secure green cards in order to be considered domestic players on Charlotte’s roster.

“These very good players, it’s not easy to get these players over the line,” Krneta said, speaking about future DPs. “There’s always an issue or two. But hopefully soon we’ll add one or two more players.”

While the front office works to finalize those contracts, Krenta and his team can at least take pride in Charlotte FC’s first major-money signing, as well as the surprised voices on the other end of international calls when they drop Świderski’s name.

Charlotte FC roster

Player

Pos.

Hometown

Karol Świderski

S

Rawicz, Poland

Vinícius Mello

F

Sapucaia do Sul, Brazil

Yordy Reyna

F

Chiclayo, Peru

McKinze Gaines

W

Austin, Texas

Kyle Holcomb

W

San Marcos, California

Jordy Alcívar

M

Manta, Ecuador

Ben Bender

M

Baltimore, Maryland

Brandt Bronico

M

Westminster, Maryland

Alan Franco

M

Jujan, Ecuador

Chris Hegardt

M

San Diego, California

Cristian “Titi” Ortíz

M

Rosario, Argentina

Sergio Ruiz

M

El Astillero, Spain

Adam Armour

LB

Burlington, North Carolina

Christian Fuchs

LB

Neunkirchen, Austria

Joseph Mora

LB

Carrizal, Costa Rica

Guzmán Corujo

CB

Rodríguez, Uruguay

Christian Makoun

CB

Valencia, Venezuela

Jan Sobociński

CB

Lodz, Poland

Anton Walkes

CB/RB

Lewisham, England

Harrison Afful

RB

Tema, Ghana

Jaylin Lindsey

RB

Charlotte, North Carolina

Kristijan Kahlina

GK

Zagreb, Croatia

George Marks

GK

Raleigh, North Carolina

Pablo Sisniega

GK

Mexico City, Mexico

Adrián Zendejas

GK

Chula Vista, California

*Note: Sorted by position, then alphabetically (includes senior and supplemental roster)

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