NWSL Champion Western New York Flash relocate to become North Carolina Courage

The 20016 National Women’s Soccer League champion Western New York Flash will relocated to become the North Carolina Courage for the 2017 season.

Founded 2008, the Flash has been a staple of American women’s soccer since playing its first season in 2009. However, long-time owner Joseph Sahlen has been looking for a buyer to take over the club.

Sahlen found a willing purchaser in Steve Malik, who is relocating the team to Cary, North Carolina with immediate effect. According to Empire of Soccer, all player and coaches’ contracts will be transferred to the new team.

The team will be re-christened the North Carolina Courage, or NC Courage; and will kickoff the 2017 season playing at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, a lush 10,000-seat stadium.

The new home of North Carolina Courage. (Courtesy of Wiki Commons)
The new home of North Carolina Courage. (Courtesy of Wiki Commons)

WakeMed was the former home of the WUSA’s Carolina Courage. The original Courage came to an end with the WUSA suspended operations in 2003.

The new North Carolina Courage side will be associated with men’s team North Carolina FC, who play in the North American Soccer League. Malik now owns both teams and a resemblance can be seen in their respective badges.

“We are excited to be able to bring the highest level of professional women’s soccer back to the Triangle,” Malik said after the announcement. “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 disappointment of losing the Flash will sting fans even more after the team won the NWSL 2016 championship. The supporters that already bought season tickets for the 2017 season will be refunded money, according to reports.

“We truly appreciate all the Sahlen family has done to foster the growth of the women’s game in their area and will continue to do in the future,” NWSL Commissioner Jeff Plush said. “To all the fans, we want to thank you for your support of the Flash and continued support of the league. The Flash will always play an important role in the history of NWSL, and for that we are grateful to everyone in Western New York who were part of it.”

According to Soccer Stadium Digest, the Flash had the fifth best attendance in NWSL during the 2016 season. The team averaged 3,868 per game through September. However, Rochester has found supporting a professional men’s or women’s soccer team to be a growing difficulty.

The NWSL will kickoff its fifth season in 2017 and Western New York Flash’s move to become North Carolina Courage makes them the first league team to relocate.

It could open the door for some of the league’s weaker drawing team’s to move cities. The location of the franchise is just another chapter in the long book of American sports teams changing location.

The North Carolina Courage hope to draw support from local fans thanks to the popularity of North Carolina University women’s soccer and other area college soccer programs.

With the LGBT law that influenced the NCAA Women’s College Cup to be moved from the state during the fall of 2016, the question is raised whether some players will want to play for North Carolina Courage. Or even against the team.

The NBA All-Star Game and other men’s basketball tournament games have also been relocated due to the law known as the “bathroom bill”; or more commonly known as HB2.

hb2

Following the relocation announcement to become North Carolina Courage, commissioner Plush had to explain just why the league chose the controversy state when speaking to Four Four Two.

“I think we show every day that we’re a league that stands for diversity and stands for inclusiveness, and we’re going to operate like this on a daily basis,” Plush said. “I’m proud of the position, and I think it’s something we take very seriously. I think it’s an opportunity to be part of the solution.”

Whether the team can be a part of the solution is anyone’s guess. However, attempts to repeal the act have done little and the relocation of sporting events seems to be doing the same.

Women’s soccer continues to be one of the most popular sports for female athletes. However, the NWSL is the third women’s league in 16 years. The NWSL is entering its fifth season.

 

Drew Farmer
I am a freelance journalist and author currently living in Manchester, England. Originally from the USA, I have written about sports and travel for years.I have written for Hopeless Football Romantic magazine, The Football Pink magazine, World Soccer Talk, Sports Collectors Daily, Forza Italian Football and many more. My debut book Soccer Travels was released in spring 2016, and details travelling to soccer matches around the globe. It can be purchased on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.