By Scott Adamson
The United Soccer League continues to spread like wildfire.
And with its most recent expansion, the North American Soccer League was burned in the process.
On Thursday the USL announced that North Carolina FC will join Fresno FC, Las Vegas Lights FC, Nashville SC and a new franchise owned and operated by Major League Soccer’s Atlanta United FC in 2018.
In the case of North Carolina, however, the club is moving over from the NASL. That league is hoping for relief from the courts that will allow it to retain second division status: as of now, the USL will be the only Division II league in North America in 2018.
The United States Soccer Federation has denied the NASL DII status, due in part to its small footprint in the United States and Canada. It fielded only eight teams last season while the USL had 30.
“Today we are thrilled to announce the addition of another successful club to the USL,” USL CEO Alec Papadakis said in a statement. “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. 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 – all the qualities that make a club successful in the USL.”
The NASL released a terse statement after the move was made official.
“The NASL confirms that North Carolina FC has withdrawn from the league. The NASL is proud to have supported professional soccer in North Carolina for five years prior to Steve Malik’s acquisition of the club at the end of the 2015 season. North Carolina FC’s departure from NASL represents the damage caused by the U.S. Soccer Federation’s decision to revoke NASL’s Division II sanctioning for the 2018 Season. The NASL remains committed to pursuing its legal claims to ensure that the future of its players, fans, and clubs remains bright.”
North Carolina FC just completed its 11th season in Cary, N.C. and was christened the Carolina RailHawks when it began play in 2006 – as a member of the USL. The team jumped to the fledgling NASL in 2010.
Last season while playing at 10,000-seat Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park, it ranked among the top 15 in attendance outside of MLS.
“We are excited to be joining the USL effective immediately,” 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.”