North Carolina Courage introduced; season tix on sale

The Equalizer Staff January 9, 2017 63
Channeling the WUSA franchise of the same name, the North Carolina Courage are officially part of NWSL

Channeling the WUSA franchise of the same name, the North Carolina Courage are officially part of NWSL

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.

{RELATED: Sahlen family issues statement on sale of Western New York Flash}

“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.

{LAULETTA: First takes of the Flash’s plans to relocate to North Carolina}

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.

  • Steglitz49

    Will the team beer be Courage?

  • Really like the branding and the fact that they seem to be taking this seriously – have season tickets already on sale, etc. I think this is overall a good move for NWSL. I will be interested to see the attendance numbers. Malik is talking pretty big already.

    • Som Termanni

      I wasn’t a fan of the branding when they unveiled it for NCFC. It’s all way too close to the Spirit in colors and marks.

      Worth noting at least that this is the first NWSL team to directly share a logo and full color scheme with a men’s side. Houston, Portland, and Orlando have to get clever to avoid invoking their respective MLS and NWSL apparel lords. Nobody cares about NASL, so there’s no sponsor to upset.

    • Andy

      A better move might’ve been Sahlen’s double down on marketing and then NC just getting an expansion, but that said, I agree. This is looking like it’ll work out for NWSL. Glad to see NC taking this seriously.

      • Guesting

        Could be the start of the same type of thing for other independent owned teams with the prospects of being relocated. Who might be next and where might it be. Does the Sacramento Republic, that once expressed an interest in the NWSL, now push their time table forward in trying to do the same thing with a team like Sky Blue that is going nowhere where they are located.

        • Maybe?

          Maybe NC did approach SB and got a no?

          • Guesting

            I don’t think that was NCFC’s primary intention to buy a team at the time. I think there was more going on behind the scenes as to why the transaction took place between NCFC and the Flash. It is my understanding that there are some in the NCFC organization that were once connected with the Rhino’s soccer organization that shared the Stadium with the Flash. Just the fact it happened so quickly makes me think that the quick sale came from Flash ownership. Once they saw NCFC was interested in getting an expansion team, the Flash owner may have felt it would be a quick and easy way to get out.

      • Possibley

        Maybe Sahlen did not want the lost leader anymore?

      • Not sure the Sahlen’s doubling down would have had much effect. They seemed to be over it at this point. Good move to get an owner in who will continue to drive and market a team. Sad for WNY fans, especially those who are local to that area, but overall, probably better for WoSo in general.

    • GT

      Hard to predict what the attendance numbers will be. The men’s team, the former Carolina Railhawks, I believe they averaged only about 4800 per game last year. But they are in the NASL, a lower tier league that the MLS. We’ll see.

  • Som Termanni

    > Paul Riley, who coached the Flash last season, is a candidate for the position

    Wow, what a reward for the coach who walked into a dumpster fire of a franchise with a roster full of nobodies and won a championship. He gets an invite. Insane.

    If NC don’t hire Riley and no other league grabs him, I expect Houston to fire Randy Waldrum out of a cannon and throw a briefcase of cash at him.

    Who else would be in the running for the job? Don’t say HAO. Don’t you _dare_ say HAO.

    • Guesting

      Could it be that Riley is the one that may be holding out?

      • Som Termanni

        It could be, but at this point why would they let him test the waters unless they had someone else in mind?

        • Guesting

          Maybe it gives him an opportunity to ask for more money.

        • Lorehead

          Give me a moment to fire up ol’ Cerebro to read their minds remotely, and I’ll find out for you.

          Okay, what’s really going on is that the new owners want Riley to stay on, but he hasn’t said he’s willing to move and take the job. But they believe they can get a better deal if they keep open another option or two instead of saying he’s indispensable. Besides, if he says no, it lets them save face. If they end up having to announce they went with someone else, that sounds better than saying their first choice turned them down.

      • JL

        Lines had to beg Riley to take the job, because Riley was originally going to take the year off from coaching. He might not want to leave NY for months at a time again.

    • TsovLoj

      They might also remember the damage he did to the Thorns.

      • xanthophobe

        The Thorns aren’t the type of team Riley works well with–I think he’s not meant to deal with all that star power. Just look at what he did with Philly in the WPS, and that was an expansion team.

        • Lorehead

          I don’t know the guy or anything, but I always had the impression that he’s a great coach at motivating players who feel they have something to prove, and at winning a team of misfits, but the Thorns gave him enough rope to hang himself. He talked a lot in 2014 about the really great team with all his favorite players he could have had in 2012 if WPS hadn’t gone out of business on him.

          • Som Termanni

            The ego that split the Thorns in 2014 and 2015 is off blessing other teams with greatness these days. It wasn’t Riley’s.

          • USMNTfan4life

            Who? Alex Morgan?

          • guest

            there can be only one.

          • USMNTfan4life

            She has a huge EGO? Morgan is portrayed in the media as a laid back kinda person.

    • mockmook

      HAO

      (Oh no, what have I done?)

  • Som Termanni

    > Malik was quick to point out that the current bear is “cooler.”

    That’s supposed to be a bear? You’re joking, right?

    It was a lion in WUSA. It’s a play on words with the Cowardly Lion of Oz.

    Do you seriously think it’s a bear? Did Malik say it was a bear, or did you just assume?

    • not a bear

      not a bear,
      from NC Courage announcement article on NWSL site
      “The North Carolina Courage crest is a nod to the history of women’s professional soccer in North Carolina, incorporating a stylized lion, a major component of the old Carolina Courage logo, …”

  • Som Termanni

    Since EQ can’t be bothered with such advanced technology as a hyperlink:

    https://www.northcarolinafc.com/nccourage

  • Som Termanni

    Jeff Plush lives! Or is that a wax figure?

    https://twitter.com/TheNCCourage/status/818516678149545985

    • kernel_thai

      It’s that same technology they used to put Gov Tarkin in Rogue One…he even flicked a bit.

    • Arcie Tillydee

      “Or is that a wax figure?”

      How would you tell…?

      • Som Termanni

        Offer it a TV deal and wait 6 months to see if it reacts.

  • kernel_thai

    Be interesting to see if they try to add some local college names to the mix. Heather O’Reilly lives close enough to take the bus to work. Amber Brooks is likely getable. Crystal Dunn would be a huge add tho costly. Christina Gibbons coming out of Duke certainly catches the eye.

  • Stegpitz49

    was right. CL10 is FIFAPOTY. Sorry, Mel B.

  • Som Termanni

    The Courage get to start their existence with the league and finals MVPs, a bought-and-paid-for star on their crest, and a championship trophy ceremony in front of thousands of fans who’ve likely never been to a Flash game or seen any of these players in person—all before they play a single minute. I won’t be surprised if the team lacks a finalized league-approved kit for their first match considering the turnaround, which is shorter than the 2013 season when every team fielded off-the-rack template kits. They’ll have the identity of a dead league’s second-least-attended team and the colors of a men’s side, in a state the NCAA and other leagues won’t touch with tournaments due to political nonsense and partisan betrayals, and will have to outdraw their men’s side on average just to hit the league average in attendance.

    WNY fans ended nearly a decade of watching one of the most consistent professional women’s soccer franchises in North America on August 27, with the season-high 6,449 fans on hand having no idea it would be the final match. The last time they saw the Flash win at home was widely considered the biggest on-pitch disaster in league history vs. Seattle, in the outfield of a baseball stadium, because they were bumped from their home pitch by a TLC concert. They’ll never see the trophy, never see an NWSL star on the Flash’s crest, and judging from the Sahlens’ statement might never see professional women’s soccer in or near their city again.

  • smallchief

    North Carolina’s new governor attended the press conference. He’s called for the repeal of the notorious anti-LGBT law in NC. so his blessing will blunt the boycott of NC by businesses, celebrities, and (most importantly) the women’s soccer team.

    • He did? Wow, that is good and very important.

      • Tamekatcoleman

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    • Lorehead

      Then where was the boycott of Houston when its voters passed a bathroom bill? Or Portland when Measure 36 meant the state didn’t recognize a Thorn’s marriage to a player on the USWNT?

      • Lorehead

        I should correct myself: voters in Houston rejected an anti-discrimination ordinance but left the status quo in place. The Texas state legislature is currently considering a bathroom bill, but there is not one as of yet. Erin McLeod and Ella Masar, however, did say that the LGBT-unfriendly laws in Texas were a reason they wanted to leave.

        • Thanks for sharing. I hadn’t heard that about Erin & Ella.

          • Steglitz49

            They live in Sweden now. Or, at least did for the past season.

    • guest

      who is boycotting the women’s soccer team? megan rapinoe?

  • A_Dog_Without_A_Clutch

    Man, that bobcat seems constipated.

  • Som Termanni

    Season ticket prices for the Courage, compared to 2016 prices of other clubs:

    Low-end: $95 (+$5 over Flash, 2nd-cheapest behind FCKC)
    High-end: $460 (+$240 over Flash, most expensive over PTFC $450)

    Likely single-ticket prices (based on announced season ticket prices, which are advertised as 30% off, and assuming a 10-game season, which is conservative):

    Low-end GA/reserved: $12 (same as Flash, T-cheapest with FCKC)
    High-end GA/reserved: $34 (+$8 over Flash, 3rd-cheapest over Seattle, Boston)
    Pitchside: $50 (cheapest in league; Flash did not advertise pitchside ticket prices)

    Most NC Courage tickets cost 50-55% as much as an NCFC ticket.

    The Courage are the first team to advertise luxury box and party deck rates (“starting at $2,500” for 35-person suites or 50-person decks).

    A notable Courage season ticket perk: Priority access to MLS tickets “when a franchise is awarded” to NCFC. It’s possible that rabid fans might buy the considerably cheaper Courage season tickets with no intention of going to games simply for the chance of buying MLS season tickets, however foolish that might be.

    • Lorehead

      The Thorns are raising their ticket prices and adding amenities, but I seem to recall field seats for the Thorns (which I didn’t buy) costing more than that. In 2017, the top-tier season tickets cost $1,375, second-tier ones cost $715 and the cheapest are $132.

      • Som Termanni

        Thanks. I didn’t count field, box, or terrace season tickets for any team in 2016 since those packages usually include considerable perks beyond the gameday experience that are harder to compare across teams.

        The only equivalents to the Thorns’ $715 Root lounge and Loge box tickets at NCFC/Courage are the catered $2,500-minimum suite and terrace packages for groups. (If I remember correctly, the Loge boxes weren’t a Thorns season ticket option in 2016.) NC’s $460 Owners Club package is equivalent to the Thorns’ $440 KeyBank Club packages (beneath the luxury boxes, with table seating, exclusive entry, and free snacks).

        I’m curious about what NC calls “field seats”. They were $850 last season for the RailHawks, but are much cheaper (-$150) this season for NCFC and by nearly half again less for the Courage. It’s odd that pitchside seats would be a considerably cheaper option than the covered 200-level terrace seats in the Owners Club package.

  • Som Termanni

    Lianne Sanderson has no idea why she isn’t on the Courage’s roster. https://twitter.com/liannesanderson/status/818578233356615681

  • Som Termanni

    FCKC sale is official, to be finalized within days per Plush:

    https://twitter.com/ByNeilMorris/status/818559552186683392

  • Som Termanni

    United Women’s Soccer (UWS), the D-II successor to the US W-League that folded in 2015, announced its second season today and is adding five teams: Detroit Sun F.C., F.C. Indiana (from WPSL), Fort Wayne United F.C. (revived from W-League), Grand Rapids F.C. (a women’s side to the NPSL team), and Michigan Legends F.C. More expansions are expected to be announced at the NSCAA conference. http://www.uwssoccer.com/news_article/show/742678

  • Name is a throwback to the Carolina Courage of the early 2000’s

  • xanthophobe

    I like the fact the team name is a throwback to the WUSA days, but I honestly think it’s kind of a lame team name. Whatever, now we don’t have rhyming team names anymore so I’m not going to complain about this too much.

  • Som Termanni

    Matt Pentz, the Seattle Times soccer beat writer who frequently forgot to cover the Reign, was part of the paper’s latest round of layoffs. Unsurprisingly, he forgot about the Reign in his farewell notice. https://twitter.com/mattpentz/status/818582747312590848

  • mockmook

    As I noted on another thread:

    Let’s all take a moment to celebrate another team moving off of Turf and onto real grass.

    The last three hold outs are now:

    Boston (boo!!!!!)
    Seattle (the Emerald City, for cryin’ out loud)
    Portland (if only they got 10 gazillion fans per game, THEN they could play on grass)