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Independence Sign UNC Charlotte Rookie

By James Thomas, 03/07/17, 3:15PM EST

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In the first game of his pro career, Luke Waechter will play at his old university versus his old club.

Charlotte (N.C.) — The Charlotte Independence announced Tuesday the signing of defender Luke Waechter pending USL and US Soccer approval. Waechter played last season for the UNC Charlotte Men’s soccer team.

Waechter was an integral part of the 49ers’ Conference USA regular season title notching 17 starts, which helped the team retain a national ranking for the entire season. The Conference USA Defender of the Year was named first-team All-Conference, first team NSCAA All-Southeast Region, and first-team NCCSIA All-State. 

"We knew a little bit about the quality of Luke's play at UNCC before having him in [for preseason]," said Independence Head Coach Mike Jeffries. "For a guy just starting his professional career, he has a very professional mentality in terms of how he approaches each day. Once again, it's nice for us to be able to bring in a strong, local player."  

Waechter is an alumnus of the South Carolina United Battery Academy affiliated with the USL’s Charleston Battery. The Charlotte Independence will kick off the 2017 season at Transamerica Field on the campus of UNC Charlotte versus the Charleston Battery on Saturday, April 1st.

“I honestly never thought I'd be playing against the Battery,” said Waechter. “Some of the older guys [at SC United] had been called up to the Battery. But at that point in my life, I wasn’t even thinking about being a professional after college.”

As Waechter’s youth, college, and professional careers play a role in the 2017 season opener, the game marks a unique homecoming for the first-year pro.

“It's all going to be very, very familiar,” said Waechter. “I have the old club at the old university, so it'll be a fun experience for me.”

The Evans, Georgia native anchored a 49ers defense which ranked sixth nationally in shutout percentage and 11th in goals against average. Waechter started 73 games in college, but thinks staying in Charlotte contributes to the strong start of his professional career.

"Being local benefits me a lot so I could get involved with the system," said Waechter. "I want to come in and make a difference. Coming out of college, the pro game is much different. People adjust differently and I think I'm adjusting well and improving daily."