NC Courage, professional women’s soccer team, to play in Cary – News & Observer

North Carolina F.C. owner Steve Malik continued to break down soccer barriers in the Triangle Monday, announcing the acquisition of the Western New York Flash, which is undergoing a rebrand to become the North Carolina Courage.

North Carolina governor Roy Cooper made an appearance at the press conference, held at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary.

“We, in North Carolina, are an epicenter for sports,” Cooper said. “This is my first economic development announcement … sports can bring money to the pockets of people in North Carolina.”

The vision for North Carolina F.C. is clear: to secure a spot in top-tier Major League Soccer. Malik wasn’t shy in his long-term goal for his new women’s team, either.

“We’re going to have the best pro women’s franchise in the world. We’re going to do that on the field, in the stands and in the community,” Malik said.

Citing a confidentiality agreement, Malik declined to say how much the team cost.

The popularity of women’s soccer skyrocketed after the United States defeated Japan in the 2015 FIFA World Cup – the most-watched soccer match in U.S. history. Malik hopes to see the popularity of the national team’s players’ support reflected at the local level.

“That popularity is so infectious and … we are so fortunate to have so many national team players,” Malik said. “We’re not just going to take advantage of (the U.S. Women’s National Team’s) popularity, we’re going to sustain it.

He continued: “I think with 10,000 seats (at WakeMed Soccer Park), we’re going to need more. That’s up to guys and how the community responds.”

Curt Johnson, general manager of the men’s club, will handle the same duties on the women’s side. His first task is Jan. 12, when he’ll be in Los Angeles as the Courage hold the 7th and 18th picks in the NWSL Draft. The team will begin play in April.

The coaching shortlist has been determined, but nobody has been appointed.

The brand is a nod to the Carolina Courage, a club founded in 2001 that played three seasons. Despite solid attendance numbers, league issues resulted in the original women’s club’s demise.

The team’s colors – blue, red and gold – and logos have changed. Most notably was the switch from a male lion to a female.

“The old lion had a big mane and it was a male lion,” Malik said. This is not a male lion, if you aren’t familiar with how manes work.”

This is the first time in the Triangle’s history that it’ll field both men’s and women’s professional teams.

WakeMed Soccer Park will have a busy summer as the home to North Carolina F.C. as it competes in the North American Soccer League and the North Carolina Courage of the National Women’s Soccer League.

It’s unclear how many matches North Carolina F.C. will host after the NASL – which was on the verge of collapse during the offseason – added an expansion club and had five clubs exit the league.

The NWSL is a 10-team Division-I women’s professional soccer league featuring national team players from around the world.

Last year, each NWSL club hosted 10 regular season games, a number that will likely stay the same unless the league adds teams via expansion. The league average for attendance per game last year was 5,558, though it was skewed by the Portland Thorns F.C.’s 16,945.

Malik, who recently rebranded the Carolina RailHawks as North Carolina F.C., has announced his intention to gain entry into Major League Soccer, which would require a new or expended stadium. The expansion fee is $150 million and stadium costs are expected to hover around that same number.