The reigning National Women's Soccer League champion Western New York Flash is in the final stages of being sold to an ownership group from North Carolina, two reputable national sources have reported.
FourFourTwo and The Equalizer both broke the news that Steve Malik, owner of newly formed North Carolina FC (formerly the Carolina RailHawks), is close to fulfilling his intentions to acquire an NWSL franchise. The Flash, owned by Joe Sahlen, appear to be his target.
"The sale of the franchise, which played its home games in Rochester, N.Y., through the first four seasons of NWSL, is expected to be announced in the coming days. Flash players were informed of the news on Thursday, per sources," wrote Jeff Kassouf and Richard Farley of FourFourTwo.
One source close to the club has confirmed to BN Soccer that the relocation will happen, while several others were not immediately available for comment. A team official expects a press conference to be held at an undetermined time on Monday, while North Carolina FC are reported to have one scheduled for 2 p.m. on the same day.
Under head coach Paul Riley, the Flash surprisingly captured the 2016 NWSL title, upsetting the Portland Thorns in penalty kicks. Although the club plays its matches in Rochester, operations are based in Elma at Sahlen's Sports Park, and the club's youth academy - in which many of the top girls high school players from the Buffalo take part - has been recently accepted into both the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) and the newly formed U.S. Soccer Girls Development Program.
The Flash averaged a reported 3,868 fans per match during the 2016 season, good for fifth in the 10-team league. The campaign was slightly controversial because of the last-minute switch of a game against the Seattle Reign from Sahlen's Stadium to Frontier Field; the dimensions of the latter did not meet FIFA regulations, and the hosts were ultimately fined for playing the match.
Well now...this is a slap in the face to those of us who supported WoSo in Buffalo and Rochester.
— The Flash Mob (@WNYFlashMob) January 6, 2017
Expect updates on the Flash's move, as well as the ripple effects for the academy, shortly.
Email Ben Tsujimoto, especially if you have more information, at firstname.lastname@example.org