Defending NWSL champs Flash officially announce North Carolina move

The Western New York Flash of the National Women's Soccer League have been sold to a group that will move the team to North Carolina for the upcoming season.

North Carolina FC said Monday it had acquired the rights to the defending league champion Flash, who will be renamed the North Carolina Courage and based in the Raleigh suburb of Cary. The name is a nod to the Carolina Courage of the now-defunct Women's United Soccer Association in the early 2000s.

The team will play at the WakeMed Soccer Park. It was unclear what stance, if any, the NWSL or the Courage may take on House Bill 2, the controversial law North Carolina adopted last year preventing local governments from passing broad anti-discrimination ordinances for LGBT people and directing which restrooms transgender people can use in schools and government buildings.

The NBA moved this year's All-Star Game to New Orleans in protest of the law, and both the NCAA and Atlantic Coast Conference pulled their championships from the state.

The women's College Cup, the NCAA women's soccer championship, was scheduled to be played in December in Cary but was moved to San Jose, California. Southern California defeated West Virginia for the title

It is the first time a team in the NWSL -- now entering its fifth year -- has been moved. Flash players will remain on the Courage's roster.

North Carolina FC owner Steve Malik announced intentions to acquire an NWSL team in December.

"There is no question that Steve and his leadership teamare well-positioned to manage the opportunities ahead of them by acquiring the WNY Flash and relaunching the club in North Carolina," NWSL commissioner Jeff Plush said. "Specifically, the Triangle has long had a spectacular reputation for its wonderful fans and deep roots in the game, from major youth clubs to excellent college programs."

The Flash won the NWSL title on penalty kicks after a 2-2 draw with the Washington Spirit last October. Based in Elma, the team played its matches Rochester and averaged 3,868 fans a game, fifth in the 10-team league.

The news of the possible sale broke late last week by FourFourTwo. It came after the team signed Brazilian forward Debinha.

"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, who owned and operated the Flash, 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 Flash Mob, the team's supporters' group, said on its Twitter account the decision was "a slap in the face to those of us who supported WoSo in Buffalo and Rochester."