Sky Blue FC has a new opponent for the 2017 season.
In a press conference held in Cary, N.C., North Carolina FC announced today it has acquired the rights to the Western New York Flash. The team has been renamed North Carolina Courage, NC Courage for short, and will play at WakeMed Soccer Park in the upcoming 2017 NWSL season. Although news of the Flash’s sale broke last week, neither team confirmed the sale until today.
Steve Malik, North Carolina FC’s owner, announced on December 6, 2016, his intent on securing a NWSL team to the Triangle within three to six months. Now, a month later, Malik has successfully brought the Flash from Rochester, NY to Cary, NC.
The North Carolina Courage will participate in the upcoming 2017 NWSL Draft on January 12 in Los Angeles, CA, making the picks owned by WNY. That means the Courage will have three draft picks in the first two rounds, including the no. 2 overall pick.
Player contracts were also transferred in the sale. It will be interesting to see what the team will do in its new home with a roster including U.S. women’s national team midfielder Sam Mewis, 2016 NWSL Golden Boot and MVP Lynn Williams and New Zealand-international Abby Erceg. Williams and Jessica McDonald earned their first caps with the USWNT in October, and they, along with teammates Mewis, Jaelene Hinkle and Taylor Smith are currently attending USWNT January training camp.
NWSL Commissioner Jeff Plush said at today’s press conference that by welcoming Steve Malik and the entire North Carolina FC organization a significant milestone has been reached in the history of the NWSL.
“There is no question that Steve and this 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 for its wonderful fans and deep roots in the game, from major youth clubs to excellent college programs,” Plush said.
At today’s press conference Malik said he was excited to bring the highest level of professional women’s soccer to the area.
“This is an important step in the plan we set forth last month, as we continue to develop, we look forward to the continued support of our community,” he said.
Furthermore, Malik thanked the Sahlen family for allowing them to enter the agreement to acquire the Flash. He also looks forward to a long and rewarding partnership as the women’s game continues to grow in North Carolina and the nation.
The move to North Carolina might not come as a surprise given its rich soccer culture. It was the former Carolina Courage’s home from 2000 until the league folded in 2003, winning the WUSA’s Founders Cup in 2002.
North Carolina has also birthed the most dominant college soccer program in history, the 22-time NCAA National Champion UNC Tar Heels. Women’s soccer legends Mia Hamm, Heather O’Reilly and Carla Overback all have ties to the state, as does UNC women’s coaching legend Anson Dorrance. 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 Western New York Flash, now the North Carolina Courage, was founded in 2008 by the Sahlen family as the Buffalo Flash in the USL W-League. The team has won four championships in three leagues, most recently beating the Washington Spirit on penalty kicks in October to win the 2016 NWSL Championship.