November 17 – The United Soccer League (USL), the second tier of US professional football announced their third expansion team in a week for the 2018 season. North Carolina FC are exiting the under pressure North American Soccer League (NASL) – stripped of its second tier status for next season by the US Soccer Federation – to continue Division 2 play in the USL.
North Carolina will join the USL alongside a reserve team from MLS club Atlanta United, and Penn FC. Fresno FC, Las Vegas Lights FC and Nashville SC are also new additions to the league for 2018.
North Carolina play at the 10,000-seat Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina, and were ranked among the top 15 teams in average attendance outside Major League Soccer in 2017.
The club also operates the North Carolina Courage in the National Women’s Soccer League, North Carolina FC U23 in the Premier Development League and is partnered with North Carolina FC Youth, which boasts 10 boys and four girls U.S. Soccer Development Academy teams.
“We were very impressed with the level of sophistication of the operations and the ownership of North Carolina FC, led by their visionary owner and chairman Steve Malik,” said USL Chief Executive Officer Alec Papadakis.
“Steve brings a wealth of business experience to the league and has strong local community support. This is a first-class club with premier facilities, in a desirable market with a strong base of support.”
North Carolina will bring the number of teams in the USL to 36 teams. The league is currently played across Eastern and Western conferences but is progressing towards the opening of central conference. The league has already confirmed Birmingham, Austin and Memphis as new entrants for the 2019 season
North Carolina owner Steve Malik said: “The USL has seen tremendous growth, not only in new markets and franchises, but in the quality of play and fan awareness. We look forward to contributing to that growth in years to come.”
The exit of the club from the NASL league structure could potentially be the final nail in coffin of that league which contains perhaps the US’s most iconic club brand, the New York Cosmos.
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