The defending NWSL champion Western New York Flash have been sold to an ownership group from North Carolina. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News file photo)

The Western New York Flash made it official Monday. The team sold their rights in the National Women's Soccer League moving the franchise to Cary, North Carolina for the 2017 season.

The Flash, which debuted in 2009, had its daily operations based in Elma at Sahlen's Sports Park, including the club's youth academy. The team played its matches in Rochester, last year averaging a reported 3,868 fans per game, ranking fifth in the 10-team league.

“Unfortunately, it has become apparent that the Western New York market is not the right fit for the NWSL and the future direction of the league," the Sahlen Family, owners of the club, said in a statement. "We know that the North Carolina market will provide what the players deserve and we are excited to see the team continue to compete at the highest level. The NWSL has been an incredible platform for the top women’s soccer players to perform in and we are proud to have been a founding member. We wish the NWSL and our other fellow ownership groups – as well as US Soccer – the best of luck and would like to thank them for the past four years."

The Flash had success, including winning four postseason championships: the W-League Championship in 2010,  the WPS Championship in 2011, the WPS Elite Championship in 2012 and the NWSL Championship in 2016. They also were the regular-season champions in NWSL in 2013.

“We truly appreciate all the Sahlen family has done to foster the growth of the women’s game in their area and will continue to do in the future," NWSL commissioner Jeff Plush said in a statement. "To all the fans, we want to thank you for your support of the Flash and continued support of the league.  The Flash will always play an important role in the history of NWSL, and for that we are grateful to everyone in Western New York who were part of it.”

The Sahlen family thanked players, staff and the community in their statement.

"Thank you to all of our former and current players for their efforts on and off the field and who always wore the Flash brand with pride," the statement said. "We are eternally grateful for all of our front office staff over the past seven years who worked to make this vision into a reality. All current employees have been offered opportunities within our entities and we hope they continue to work with us for many years to come.

"Lastly, we want to thank the Western New York area for welcoming us into their community for the past seven years and helping us celebrate five trophies throughout four different leagues in Professional Women’s Soccer. It has been an incredible journey and we will cherish these memories for a lifetime.”

The Flash announced season ticket holders will be fully refunded immediately.

The release also noted a continued commitment to the WNY Flash Academy and Sahlen's Sports Park.

"Our dedication and support of the game will remain strong at the grass roots level through the WNY Flash Academy and Sahlen’s Sports Park," said the Sahlen family statement. "We are wholly committed to our Academy and we look forward to developing future collegiate and NWSL-caliber players."

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