Last night, FourFourTwo USA reported that the Western NY Flash franchise, the 2016 NWSL champions, will relocate to North Carolina for the 2017 season. Details have yet to be confirmed.
North Carolina has a rich history of women’s soccer – and not just because of the 21 NCAA titles won by the Tar Heels of UNC Chapel Hill. Here’s a brief look at some of North Carolina’s woso history:
Carolina was home to one of the eight WUSA (2001-2003) franchises, although the club was originally set to play in Florida and was going to be known as the Orlando Tempest. When an appropriate venue couldn’t be secured, the franchise was moved to North Carolina and eventually renamed the Carolina Courage. The USWNT players allocated to the Courage were longtime captain Carla Overbeck, midfielder Tiffany Roberts and striker Danielle Fotopoulos. The team finished last in the inaugural season of the league, but then grabbed USWNT defender Danielle Slaton with the top pick in the 2002 draft (leaving Abby Wambach for the Washington Freedom) and picked up German star Birgit Prinz from FFC Frankfurt. The recharged Courage, led by former USWNTer/Tar Heel Marcia McDermott, won the 2002 WUSA championship with a 3-2 win over the Freedom:
Before the WUSA, the W-League (semi-pro) had a team in North Carolina for three seasons. The Raleigh Wings won the W-League title in 1998 and 1999, and fell to the Chicago Cobras in the 2000 championship game before the franchise folded. Wings players included Angela Hucles, Wendy Gebauer, Carla Overbeck and Thori Staples.
The USWNT have played 12 matches in the Tar Heel State, going 11-0-1 and outscoring opponents 48-5. The Americans faced Finland in April 1995 at Davidson College as part of their preparations for the 1995 Women’s World Cup, defeating the Finns 6-0 in front of a crowd of 3,295. Four years later the US women played another pre-WWC match in North Carolina, this time in Charlotte, dominating Japan 9-0. Tiffeny Milbrett scored four goals in that game, and a teenaged Aly Wagner scored her first international goal.
The following spring featured a pair of USWNT matches in NC – the first was a closed-door match (i.e. no tickets sold/not open to public) that saw an 18-year-old Hope Solo earn her first cap (and first shutout) in a 8-0 win over Iceland at Davidson. Just a few days later, the USWNT was held scoreless by Iceland and keeper Thora Helgadottir’s 11 saves in a 0-0 draw:
Two years later, a young Heather O’Reilly scored her first international goal against Italy in a USWNT match versus Italy at the recently opened SAS Park (now known as WakeMed Park). And in the most recent USWNT game in North Carolina, the team topped Switzerland 4-1 in the first-ever meeting between the countries.
|USWNT matches in North Carolina|
|30-Apr-95||Finland||6-0 W||3,295||Richardson Field, Davidson|
|16-Mar-96||Germany||2-0 W||3,459||Richardson Field, Davidson|
|24-Apr-97||France||4-2 W||3,376||UNCG Soccer Stadium, Greensboro|
|29-Apr-99||Japan||9-0 W||10,119||Ericsson Stadium, Charlotte|
|05-Apr-00||Iceland||8-0 W||closed||Richardson Field, Davidson|
|08-Apr-00||Iceland||0-0 T||10,315||Ericsson Stadium, Charlotte|
|02-Oct-02||Australia||4-0 W||2,661||SAS Soccer Park, Cary|
|06-Oct-02||Italy||4-0 W||3,144||SAS Soccer Park, Cary|
|30-Jul-06||Canada||2-0 W||5,292||WakeMed Soccer Park, Cary|
|27-Apr-08||Australia||3-2 W||3,698||WakeMed Soccer Park, Cary|
|18-May-11||Japan||2-0 W||5,323||WakeMed Soccer Park, Cary|
|20-Aug-14||Switzerland||4-1 W||9,992 (SO)||WakeMed Soccer Park, Cary|
More NCAA Div1 championships have been played in North Carolina than other state – seventeen of the 35 title games held since 1982. Seven of those 17 matches were contested at WakeMed Park, which boasts four of the all-time top 10 attendances for the women’s final. Last December would have made the tally 18, but the NCAA pulled all championships from North Carolina due to HB2, and the women’s soccer final ended up in San Jose.
Fetzer Field, home field of the UNC Tar Heels, also hosted seven NCAA finals, including the 1995 championship which saw the first non-UNC champion in a decade, as Notre Dame defeated Portland 1-0 in triple overtime. That match featured future USWNT stars Kate Markgraf and Shannon Boxx for Notre Dame, plus Shannon MacMillan for Portland.