Jan. 12, 2017
Storied Western New York Flash Headed to North Carolina
Since bursting onto the scene as the Buffalo Flash of the USL W-League in 2009 and winning their first league title in 2010, the Western New York Flash have dominated professional women's soccer. The team moved to Women's Professional Soccer in 2011, intending to play half of their games in Rochester instead of Buffalo but ended up moving to Rochester full-time. They won the final WPS title in 2011, the WPSL Elite title in 2012 in that league's one year stay at the top of the pyramid and the are the defending champions of the National Women's Soccer League.
The franchise will still seek to defend its title, but they will do so with a new name, in a new stadium and in a new state. The team will compete in 2017 as the North Carolina Courage and play at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina. The team was bought by the owner of the North American Soccer League's North Carolina FC and moved to the stadium that was originally built to host a women's soccer team. The Carolina Courage, the namesake of the new club, played in the Women's United Soccer Association and opened the stadium in 2002. At the time, it was shared with the amateur Raleigh CASL Elite of the Premier Development League.
The stadium will now host both the Courage and North Carolina FC (formerly the Carolina RailHawks). NCFC is planning to bid for a spot in Major League Soccer, but faces fierce competition from several more favored cities, including nearby Charlotte.
The Courage will be the NWSL's fourth team in the South, after the Houston Dash, Orlando Pride and Washington Spirit. Of these, only the Spirit are not affiliated with a professional men's club (although the Spirit derive their roots from the former D.C. United Women team).
The 2017 NWSL season will consist again of 10 teams: the Boston Breakers (Jordan Field at Harvard University, Boston), the Chicago Red Stars (Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois, home of the Chicago Fire of MLS), FC Kansas City (Children's Mercy Victory Field at Swope Soccer Village, Kansas City, Missouri, home of the USL's Swope Park Rangers KC), the Houston Dash (BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, home of the MLS affiliate Houston Dynamo), the North Carolina Courage (WakeMed Soccer Park, Cary, North Carolina, home of NASL affiliate North Carolina FC), the Orlando Pride (Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, Florida, home of MLS affiliate Orlando City SC), Portland Thorns FC (Providence Park, Portland, Oregon, home of the MLS affiliate Portland Timbers), Seattle Reign FC (Memorial Stadium at Seattle Center, Seattle), Sky Blue FC (Yurcak Field at Rutgers University, Piscataway, New Jersey) and the Washington Spirit (Maureen Hendricks Field at Maryland SoccerPlex, Germantown, Maryland).
The 2017 NASL season will consist of eight teams: FC Edmonton (Clarke Stadium, Edmonton, Alberta), the Indy Eleven (Michael A. Carroll Stadium at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Indianapolis), Jacksonville Armada FC (Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, Jacksonville, Florida), Miami FC (FIU Stadium at Florida International University, Miami), the New York Cosmos (likely at MCU Park, Brooklyn), North Carolina FC (WakeMed Soccer Park, Cary, North Carolina), Puerto Rico FC (Juan Ramon Loubriel Stadium at Bayamon, Puerto Rico) and the San Francisco Deltas (Kezar Stadium, San Francisco).