North Carolina FC will be moving from the USL Championship down to USL League One, according to an announcement from the club Sunday, Jan. 10. In the release, the club said the move is a strategic one that will provide the “largest youth-to-professional soccer organization in the United States the opportunity to enhance its youth development pathway.”
The move is not expected to be a temporary one, according to The Athletic’s Jeff Rueter, who originally reported on Saturday, Jan. 9 that NCFC has informed its players it would not be taking part in the 2021 USL Championship season.
This isn’t expected to be temporary, per #USL sources. One used the term “foreseeable future.”Greenville Triumph v North Carolina FC could be a fun one.— Jeff Rueter (@jeffrueter) January 10, 2021
“We are pleased to continue the partnership we have had with the USL since 2018 as North Carolina FC prepares to compete in USL League One,” said North Carolina Football Club Chairman Steve Malik in the release. “We are in the midst of a very important period with key initiatives. In addition to this strategic move to League One, we remain focused on the Downtown South project and the associated future professional soccer stadium, the 2021 NC Courage season, and enhancing our youth-to-pro development model for both boys and girls.”
According to the release, the move will allow the club to offer more first-team minutes to young academy players and focus additional resources into youth development. Through scouting and recruitment, the club aims to attract top young players to the club’s development pathway.
“It is important that as the landscape of soccer in North Carolina evolves, our club does the same,” said North Carolina Football Club President and General Manager Curt Johnson in the release. “We can do more to develop our best players and are committing that player development will be the focus of our professional team for the foreseeable future. I could not be more excited about the next step and can’t wait to collaboratively work with NCFC Youth Academy players and coaches as well as other elite players and coaches throughout the state and country.”
NCFC’s youth club, North Carolina FC Youth, is the largest of its kind in the state with over 13,000 members, according to the release. Through it, NCFC has been able to provide academy players with playing opportunities in the USL Championship, and previously the North American Soccer League, since 2014.
“This is an exciting transition for our club and for our young, aspiring players coming through our academy program and development pathway,” said John Bradford, NCFC Youth Academy director and NCFC USL League Two technical director, in the release. “Providing our top talents with meaningful developmental opportunities going forward will continue to support our Academy’s mission of producing youth national team players and professional soccer players, as well as those who choose to play collegiate soccer.”
The closest teams to NCFC in USL League One are the Richmond Kickers and Greenville Triumph, the latter of which is currently the title holder in USL League One.
“We are pleased to continue the nearly 30-year tradition of men’s professional soccer in the Triangle,” Malik said in the release. “We look forward to continuing to invest to provide opportunities for both fans and young talent to locally grow the global game we all love.”