North Carolina FC owner Steve Malik has followed through on his plan to acquire an NWSL franchise, as the North Carolina Courage are joining the league in 2017.
Malik has added NC Courage to his organization by acquiring the Western New York Flash, and relocating them to WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary. This comes after an announcement in December that Malik, who is also pursuing an MLS expansion franchise, intended to add an NWSL team to the North Carolina FC organization within a three to six month period. The Flash previously played at Rochester Rhinos Stadium in Rochester, NY.
“We are excited to be able to bring the highest level of professional women’s soccer back to the Triangle,” said Malik. “This is an important step in the plan we set forth last month, and as we continue to develop, we look forward to the continued support of our community. I would like to thank the Sahlen family for giving us the opportunity to enter into this agreement to acquire the Western New York Flash and look forward to a long and rewarding partnership as we continue to grow the women’s game in North Carolina and the nation.”
The North Carolina Courage crest is a nod to the history of women’s professional soccer in North Carolina, incorporating a stylized lion, a major component of the old Carolina Courage logo, while retaining the brand identity of the club’s parent organization with the signature North Carolina Football Club star and the separated triangle. Additionally, the colors mirror those of the men’s side, uniting the two teams under the North Carolina Football Club umbrella, while maintaining their individual identity.
Malik announced his intent to secure the awarding of an NWSL team to the Triangle within three to six months, on December 6, 2016, and this acquisition has achieved that objective in only one month’s time. As part of the deal, the players under contract will remain on the 2017 NC Courage roster.
Founded by the Sahlen family in 2008 as the Buffalo Flash in the USL W-League, the North Carolina Courage (former WNY Flash) is one of the most decorated women’s professional soccer teams, winning four championships in three different leagues. Most recently, the club won the 2016 NWSL Championship on October 9 by defeating the Washington Spirit in penalty kicks.
Led by team captain and New Zealand international Abby Erceg, the club’s roster includes U.S. Women’s National Team midfielder Sam Mewis, Canadian goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo and 2016 NWSL Golden Boot Winner and MVP Lynn Williams. Mewis, Williams and fellow teammate Jessica McDonald each earned caps with the USWNT in 2016. The three players listed, along with Taylor Smith and Jaelene Hinkle, have been recently called into the upcoming USWNT training camp set to begin on January 13, 2017.
“Welcoming Steve Malik and the entire North Carolina Football Club organization represents a significant milestone in the history of our league,” NWSL Commissioner Jeff Plush said. “There is no question that Steve and his leadership team are well-positioned to manage the opportunities ahead of them by acquiring the WNY Flash and relaunching the club in North Carolina. Specifically, the Triangle has long had a spectacular reputation for its wonderful fans and deep roots in the game, from major youth clubs to excellent college programs. In addition, WakeMed Soccer Park provides a world-class facility that will serve the league, the team and its fans very well.”
The State of North Carolina has always been a leader in women’s soccer. It has produced several legends including Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, Heather O’Reilly, and Carla Overbeck, and UNC women’s coaching legend Anson Dorrance. The Triangle was the home of WUSA’s 2002 Founders Cup Champion Carolina Courage for three seasons before the league folded the following year.
North Carolina is also home to the most dominant college soccer program in history, the 22-time NCAA National Champion UNC Tar Heels. Four teams from the state participated in the 2016 Women’s College Cup including UNC-Charlotte, NC State (Third Round), Duke (Quarterfinals), and UNC-Chapel Hill (Semifinals).
The North Carolina Courage will be participating in the upcoming 2017 NWSL Draft on January 12 in Los Angeles, California.
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