As expected, North Carolina FC has left the NASL, where it was the last surviving team that joined the league from the USSF D-2 Pro League in 2011, and returned to the USL.
whose future is up in the air as it appeals the ruling against it in U.S. District Court in its fight with U.S. Soccer for Division 2 sanctioning, has lost eight teams in the last two years -- three
to the USL -- and the future of the champion San Francisco Deltas and FC Edmonton in the league is uncertain. NASL departures
(2015-17): TEAM (REASON, SEASONS) Atlanta Silverbacks
(folded, 2011-15) San Antonio Scorpions
(folded, 2012-15) Fort Lauderdale Strikers
(folded, 2011-16) Minnesota United
(moved to MLS, 2011-16) Ottawa Fury
(moved to USL, 2012-16) Rayo OKC
(folded, 2016) Tampa Bay Rowdies
North Carolina FC
(moved to USL, 2011-17)
In the NASL v. USSF court proceedings on Oct. 31, it was confirmed that the NASL did not expect NCFC back in
2018 though it had been included in the eight teams it sought to get approval for on Sept. 1 for D2 sanctioning. (Neither the Deltas nor Eddies were among the NASL eight.)
NCFC began as
the North Carolina RailHawks in 2007 in the USL First Division and was part of the group that split off from the USL. It almost folded in 2010 and was taken over along with three other NASL clubs by
league investor Traffic USA, which operated the club until 2015 when it was implicated in the FIFA corruption scandal that produced guilty pleas by Aaron Davidson
, president of Traffic Sports
USA, and Brazilian Jose Hawilla
, owner of Traffic USA and its parent company, Traffic International.
By then, the RailHawks were the last remaining NASL property and sold to
Raleigh businessman Steve Malik
, who rebranded the team In 2017, he also bought the NWSL's Western New York Flash and moved it to North Carolina.
Malik has also been bidding for an
MLS team. NCFC will not get one of the two bids expected to be awarded in mid-December -- Raleigh has a lot of work to do to nail down a plan for an MLS stadium -- but he said the move to the USL fits
the club's desire to grow.
“The move is consistent with our mission, which is that we want to field teams at the highest possible level,” Malik told WRAL Sports Fan
. “The USL is a league that, in recent years, has proven its growth
and stability. I think this will allow our club to grow, and that’s on a parallel path with us securing a new downtown Raleigh stadium and eventually earning a new Major League Soccer
The NASL issued the following statement following NCFC's departure: "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."