The North Carolina Courage were officially unveiled in a Monday afternoon press event at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina where the newly relocated NWSL franchises will play home matches beginning in April. The announcement signals the official end of the Western New York Flash whose final on-field moment was winning last fall’s NWSL Championship. Ownership did not wish to continue though and the club was sold to Steve Malik’s group to become the North Carolina Courage. The Equalizer‘s Dan Lauletta and FourFourTwo first reported news of the sale late last Thursday.
Courage season tickets were already on sale as the press conference kicked off. The club falls under the umbrella of North Carolina FC, rebranded from the Carolina RailHawks last month and recently confirmed as an NASL member club again in 2017. The NCFC website was freshly updated Monday with a Courage tab. When the club rebranded Malik made no secret of his desire to bring both an NWSL side as well as an MLS side to the area known as The Triangle.
“We are excited to be able to bring the highest level of professional women’s soccer back to the Triangle,” Steve Malik, North Carolina Football Club owner, 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. 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.”
All players contracts with the Flash will be transferred to the Courage as the move will be handled as a straight relocation. Team president Curt Johnson said that Paul Riley, who coached the Flash last season, is a candidate for the position in North Carolina. It is unclear whether that means the club is considering retaining Riley or if Riley is weighing whether or not to make the move to Cary. Technical Director Charlie Naimo told The Equalizer he is still preparing to handle draft day for the club. Naimo lives in California and worked for the Flash in a remote capacity.
The Courage hold the 2nd, 7th, and 18th picks in Thursday’s NWSL Draft.
“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 Courage name is a relic to WUSA when the Carolina Courage were the local team playing their final two seasons at what is now WakeMed. The logo is also based on the old Courage shield. Malik was quick to point out that the current bear is “cooler.” The Carolina Courage were WUSA champions in 2002.