Updated 4:42 p.m.
The nation's top women's professional soccer team is moving to North Carolina. Under a deal announced Monday, the Western New York Flash of the National Women's Soccer League will become the North Carolina Courage. The team will play at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary when the season begins in April.
North Carolina Football Club said it has acquired the Flash from the Sahlen family, which founded the club in Buffalo in 2008. NC Football Club owner Steve Malik made the announcement at noon Monday during a press conference with Gov. Roy Cooper and NWSL leaders.
“We are excited to be able to bring the highest level of professional women’s soccer back to the Triangle,” Malik said. “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."
The name is a throwback to the former Carolina Courage, which competed in the Women's United Soccer Associatoin in the early 2000s, according to WUNC.
The Western NY Flash won the NWSL championship last fall. As part of the deal, all players under contract will remain on the roster for 2017, the club said. The team also will participate in the NWSL draft Jan. 12.
The Flash had an average attendance of about 3,000 per game. That lagged the league average of about 5,000 and the top teams which top 10,000, WUNC reports.
North Carolina Football Club also owns a men's team, formerly called the N.C. RailHawks and now called NC Football Club.
NWSL Commissioner Jeff Plush said in a statement: “Welcoming Steve Malik and the entire North Carolina Football Club organization represents a significant milestone in the history of our league. 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.
Meanwhile, there could be more professional soccer on the way in North Carolina. Mecklenburg County and Charlotte city officials last week said they're studying a plan - led by Speedway Motorsports owner Bruton Smith and son Marcus - to bring Major League Soccer to Charlotte.
That plan would include demolishing Memorial Stadium and the Grady Cole Center to make way for a new 20,000-seat stadium.
The city and county would chip in $50 million each for the project. The Smiths also would contribute $50 million toward the new stadium construction.
Charlotte is reported to be among 10 cities interested in getting an MSL expansion team.
Some local officials have questioned whether the public should spend so much money on a new stadium.
Jan. 10, 2017, WUNC.org, "Pro Women's Soccer Returns to North Carolina" - Jason Debruyn of the Triangle's public radio station covered today's announcement and has details.
Read the full press release at NWSLSoccer.com
NC Courage web page - https://www.northcarolinafc.com/nccourage
NC Football Club web page - https://www.northcarolinafc.com