Three months after winning the NWSL Championship, the Flash are leaving Western New York. Multiple sources have confirmed to The Equailzer that the club is in the final stages of being sold to a group that will relocate it to North Carolina. The players and staff were informed of the news late Thursday. A formal announcement is expected prior to next Thursday’s NWSL draft in Los Angeles. FourFourTwo also reported the news late Thursday night. The club has scheduled a major announcement for Monday, January 9.
The club will now be under the umbrella of North Carolina FC which re-branded from the Carolina RailHawks late last season. At the time owner Stephen Malik said, “We aspire to be at the top level of both men’s and women’s professional soccer, so we are pursuing MLS and NWSL bids as well as a new stadium. We made a conscious decision to brand ourselves as North Carolina’s professional club. A united soccer community will be one of the keys to reaching these goals.”
The next three months figure to move at breakneck pace for the relocated franchise. North Carolina FC play at WakeMed Soccer Park. The stadium was opened as SAS Soccer Park in 2002 and housed the Carolina Courage of WUSA. Last year, Malik purchased the trademark for the name Carolina Courage. It is unknown what the now former Western New York Flash will be called.
The departure of the Flash from Western New York ends a short but storied history. They debuted as the Buffalo Flash in 2009 and a year later were champions of the USL-W League. Led by owner Joe Sahlen the team made an ambitious leap into WPS in 2011 and began playing home matches in Rochester while maintaining a training base in Buffalo. The arrival of the team helped save the league for that season and the likes of Marta, Christine Sinclair, and rookie Alex Morgan propelled them to the title.
The 2011 Flash also hosted the marquee event in league history when they hosted magicJack and hometown favorite Abby Wambach just days after the Women’s World Cup final. A weary Wambach was reduced to spectator and autograph giver but the match drew an overflow crowd to Sahlen’s Stadium.
A year later they struck again, this time in WPSL Elite before joining NWSL as a charter franchise in 2013. The four years in NWSL were a mixed bag. Wambach played there for two seasons, the first of which ended with the inaugural NWSL Shield and a disappointing loss at home in the NWSL Championship. Player revolt dotted the 2015 season and led to Aaran Lines stepping down as head coach and Paul Riley taking the reins.
In 2016, Riley guided a youthful squad all the way to the NWSL Championship. Unfortunately for Flash fans in Western New York they will be unable to see their team compete as defending champions this season.