North Carolina Football Club (formerly the Carolina RailHawks) is an American professional soccer team in Cary, North Carolina, a suburb of Raleigh. The club competes in the USL League One, the third division of American soccer.
North Carolina FC Youth Development System
At the time of this writing, there is no official trial information for North Carolina FC. Please come back at a later date while we monitor this club.
North Carolina FC Youth
North Carolina FC Youth (NCFC Youth) is a collaboration between youth clubs Capital Area Soccer League (CASL), Triangle Futbol Club Alliance (TFCA), and the professional North Carolina Football Club (NCFC), creating the largest youth-to-professional club in the country with more than 13,500 players and 950 coaches. NCFC Youth is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, led by CEO Gary Buete and governed by a Board of Directors.
NCFC Youth is proud to offer recreation, youth academy, challenge, classic, Elite Clubs National League, US Development Academy, and community outreach programs. NCFC Youth strives to improve the quality of life for our players, families, and community through the game of soccer.
For more information on NCFC, please click here.
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On January 26, 2006, at a press conference at SAS Soccer Park, which has since been renamed WakeMed Soccer Park, the expansion of the USL to Cary, North Carolina, was announced. The RailHawks ownership group was formed in the off-season of 2008 and included the Wellman Family Limited Partnership (Selby and Brian Wellman), HTCFC. INC. (Bob Young, former CEO of Red Hat and current founder and CEO of LULU.com), Singh Holdings (Dr. H. Paul Singh) and Boris Jerkunica as well. New owner Traffic Sports USA took the control in 2010.
Scott Schweitzer, a former Rochester Rhinos defender who served as the RailHawks’ inaugural head coach, was introduced to the organization on October 11, 2006. Prior to the 2006 season, Schweitzer played his NCAA ball at North Carolina State University before hanging up his cleats. The RailHawks announced the signing of their first players on December 5th, 2006. In addition to Chris Carrieri and Caleb Norkus, two former University of North Carolina Tar Heels, the club also added a number of players with Major League Soccer, United Soccer Leagues, and other international playing experience.
On April 21, 2007, in front of 6,327 fans at SAS Soccer Park, the team began its maiden season with a 1–1 tie against the Minnesota Thunder. At 8 minutes into the first game, midfielder Kupono Low scored the first goal in franchise history by firing a 24-yard left-footed shot past Thunder goalkeeper Joe Warren. When the RailHawks beat Chivas USA 2–0 in an exhibition match on May 8, 2007, it was their first win as a franchise.
The RailHawks won the 2007 Southern Derby Cup with a 3–0 victory over the Charleston Battery on August 14, 2007, with one match remaining in the competition. Despite finishing 8th in the league, the RailHawks secured the last playoff position in the USL-1 regular season by defeating the California Victory 2–0 on the final day of the regular season. The eventual league champion Seattle Sounders eliminated the RailHawks in the playoff quarterfinals. After announcing their intention to leave the USL First Division in November 2009, the RailHawks stated that they would co-found a new North American Soccer League in 2010. In addition to the Atlanta Silverbacks, Crystal Palace Baltimore, Miami FC, Minnesota Thunder, Montreal Impact, Tampa Bay Rowdies, Vancouver Whitecaps, and a brand new team led by St. Louis Soccer United, the league had yet to be sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation or the Canadian Soccer Association.
Neither organization had yet to sanction it. After a flurry of legal action and a barrage of angry press exchanges, the USSF announced that it would suspend neither league for the 2010 season and ordered the two organizations to come up with a temporary solution to allow their teams to compete. For now, the USSF has set up a new D-2 division that includes teams from both the NASL and the USL-1, which was announced on January 7, 2010. Puerto Rico Islanders beat RailHawks 1-0 in the final of the USSF D-2 playoffs. Despite the NASL and USL split, the RailHawks were put up for sale by Selby Wellman at the end of the 2010 season. On eBay, the RailHawks trademark was sold to Traffic Sports USA, who thereafter took over operations of the team. After receiving preliminary approval in 2011, the NASL was granted full sanctioning in 2012. In 2011, the RailHawks won the regular season but lost in the playoff semifinals against the NSC Minnesota Stars. After Martin Rennie’s departure to join the Vancouver Whitecaps, the team signed Colin Clarke as its new head coach.
There were no playoff berths for the RailHawks that year; they finished fourth in regular season play and lost in the semi-finals of US Open Cup play to Tampa Bay Rowdies in 2012. Since the NASL divided its season in 2013, the RailHawks have finished second in the league in both the spring and fall seasons and failed to qualify for the Soccer Bowl. In the US Open Cup quarterfinals, they beat MLS teams LA Galaxy and Chivas USA. After defeating Chivas USA and the Los Angeles Galaxy to reach the quarterfinals of the US Open Cup in 2014, the RailHawks were unable to advance to the NASL playoffs. Steve Malik, a local businessman, purchased the squad from Traffic Sports in 2015. On October 30, 2015, the ambitious local owner stated, “Our goal is to raise the RailHawks to the highest level with greater investment in marketing, players, and staffing. In order to build a world-class soccer club in the Triangle, we’re looking forward to leading our community in this effort.”
Both the front office and the playing field have seen a slew of new faces. With the additions of Omar Bravo and Matt Fondy, the RailHawks had a banner year in 2016. Bravo, C.D. Guadalajara’s all-time leading scorer, was the club’s greatest signing and offered leadership and experience to the team. The RailHawks missed the playoffs for the second straight year, finishing the regular season with a 7–5–10–5 record, but they made another excellent run in the Open Cup, reaching the fourth round before falling to the MLS New England Revolution 1–0.
A 5–0 win over Charlotte Independence in extra-time saw Carolina advance to the next round with an exciting contest. This was the most goals scored by a single team in extra time in the US Open Cup’s history. When West Ham United played at WakeMed Soccer Park on July 12, 2016, they made history as the first Premier League side to ever visit the Triangle region of North Carolina. In front of a record-breaking crowd of 10,125, the game concluded in a 2–2 draw. They announced on November 16 that they will be leaving the NASL and joining USL for the upcoming season. On October 17, 2018, the club announced that head coach Colin Clarke would not be returning to the club after seven seasons, and that the team has began seeking for a new head coach.
On December 17, 2018, Dave Sarachan, the former head coach of the United States Men’s National Team, was hired as the club’s fourth head coach. On September 30, 2019, they officially secured their place in the 2019 USL Championship Playoffs. USL League One, the third tier of the United States soccer league system, was announced on January 10, 2021, by the club’s chairman, Stephen Malik. Coach Dave Sarachan and North Carolina parted ways as a result of the team’s relocation to USL League One.
Colors and Badge
The North Carolina state flag is used prominently on the badge of the North Carolina Football Club (NCFC). The Research Triangle, which comprises Chapel Hill, Durham, and Raleigh, is represented by the bottom right tip of the star. As a nod to the state’s official slogan, “First in Flight,” the initials “FC” (Football Club) appear between two airplane wings. “Atlantic blue,” “cardinal red,” and “Southern gold” are some of NCFC’s primary colors.
Previously known as SAS Soccer Park, Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park serves as the home field for the National Women’s Soccer League’s North Carolina Courage, another Stephen Malik-owned franchise. In addition to the main stadium, the facility includes two lighting practice fields, and four more fields. Both of the illuminated fields (2 and 3) are FIFA international regulation size (120 yards x 75 yards). With the 2012 expansions, the primary stadium can hold 10,000 people. Additionally, there are 1,000 fixed bleacher seats on Field 2.
The park is located on 150 acres (0.61 km2) of land that Wake County has leased from the State of North Carolina. The $14.5 million in countywide hotel and prepared food and beverage taxes went toward the construction of the soccer park. Capital Area Soccer League (CASL), currently North Carolina FC Youth, was taken over by the Town of Cary in 2004. To allow Triangle Professional Soccer to promote professional soccer and lacrosse events at the complex, Town of Cary council revised their lease on January 26, 2006. This agreement was renewed for the new owners through 2014. As part of its rebranding in December 2016, North Carolina FC announced plans to build a stadium with a capacity of 24,000 seats.
The Daily Commercial News stated on July 13th, 2018, that the team is considering building a 750 million dollar stadium complex for its home games. On March 31, 2017, Sahlen Packing Company purchased the name rights to WakeMed Soccer Park’s main stadium, making it Sahlen’s Stadium. The town of Cary will receive $100,000, while the remaining $400,000 will go to the North Carolina Courage organization.
Charleston Battery and Atlanta Silverbacks
With the RailHawks joining the USL First Division, the rivalry between fans of the Charleston Battery, Atlanta Silverbacks, and Raleigh Express was reignited. The RailHawks were the first team from the Triangle to hold the Southern Derby Cup since 2000, when Raleigh defeated the Silverbacks and Battery 3–1–0 in the inaugural season of the Derby.
As a player with the Rochester Rhinos, Scott Schweitzer had a reputation among Battery fans as a defender they loved to hate, and current Atlanta Silverbacks owner Boris Jerkunica had a small stake in the RailHawks franchise, which heightened the animosity between the three teams. North Carolina FC’s move to the USL in 2018 will reignite existing rivalries with the Charleston Battery, Charlotte Independence, and Richmond Kickers, as well as potential new geographical rivals with expansion clubs Nashville SC and Atlanta United 2.
This has led to an intense rivalry between the Railhawks and the Rhinos because of their tight financial and player connections. Ex-Rhinos GM Chris Economides and former Rhinos President Frank DuRoss and ex-CEO Steve Donner were members of the original ownership group that purchased the team.
The former Rhinos captain and fan favorite Scott Schweitzer, as well as former RailHawks Frank Sanfilippo and Connally Edozien, were all Rhinos players at one time. Since the two teams moved to different leagues, the animosity between them has waned.
Puerto Rico Islanders
The rivalry between the Carolina RailHawks and the Puerto Rico Islanders was heating up. When RailHawks President Andrés Guillemard-Noble accused the Islanders’ rival team of piracy in the signing of Islanders free agent Caleb Norkus, Islanders fans were less than pleased. The RailHawks’ orange and blue colors were chosen because no other Triangle area sports team used them, but the Islanders do wear them. It is claimed by the Islanders’ executive management staff that a verbal agreement had been made with Norkus, but the player denies that ever happened. He says the two parties never reached an agreement and points to the absence of a written contract as proof that they never came to an agreement. Since the Islanders went out of business, this rivalry has vanished.