The Western New York Flash are on the brink of finalizing the sale of the team and relocating to Cary, North Carolina, according to a report.
The soccer-specific website FourFourTwo.com reported late Thursday that the reigning National Women's Soccer League champions have likely played their last match in Rochester. They're expected to play the 2017 season as North Carolina FC, the former Carolina RailHawks who have an owner who wants to get into the NWSL. The Flash would play at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary. The franchise will have a 1 p.m. news conference on Monday when it's expected to formally announce the purchase of the Flash.
Flash general manager Rich Randall declined comment Friday morning, saying he'd defer to ownership. The club is expected to issue a statement at some point Friday.
Front-office staff for the Flash, who are based in Elma, near Buffalo, and players were informed of the move Thursday, according to local sources. Western New York is owned by Buffalo-based Sahlen's Packing Co., which owns Sahlen's Sports Park, in Elma, Erie County. SSP is where the Flash have practiced on a full-sized indoor field and other outdoor fields.
The team has played the past six seasons in Rochester's soccer-specific stadium run by its main tenant, the USL's Rochester Rhinos, and won three championships, including last year's stirring run to the NWSL crown by coach Paul Riley's young squad. WNY won titles in 2011 and 2012 in Women's Professional Soccer and the WPSL Elite, respectively. WNY suited up hometown soccer star Abby Wambach to play for them in what was then a new league, the NWSL, in 2013, but attendance began to drop in 2014 and Wambach suffered a knee injury that kept her out much of the season. She decided not to play for the Flash in 2015 and focus solely on winning the World Cup for the United States.
The Flash missed the playoffs for the first time in their brief history in 2014 and then again in 2015 before rebounding last season.
The Flash actually started in 2009 as the Buffalo Flash and a year later won the USL's W-League title before jumping into the professional ranks in 2011 in what was the last season before WPS folded. That 2011 squad included stars such as Brazilian Marta, Canada's Christine Sinclair and then-rookie, U.S. superstar Alex Morgan.
But as the team began to struggle on the field in 2014 and 2015, it started to lose its identity and fanbase. In an attempt to rebuild its roster it traded away established players and even stars, such as Carli Lloyd, who less than a year later criticized the organization for the surprising move.
The Cary area in North Carolina had a women's pro team previously. The Carolina Courage were in America's first pro league, Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA). That league lasted for three seasons, 2001-03. WPS lasted for the same amount of time (2009-11). This will be the NWSL's fifth season. It has nine other franchises and reportedly has expansion candidates, too.