The Capital Area Soccer League and Triangle Futbol Club Alliance youth leagues have merged, creating a single organization that will oversee more than 13,500 young soccer players in the region. The new league will be called North Carolina FC Youth.
The change, announced in a conference call on Friday, could help the North Carolina Football Club in its bid to join Major League Soccer by creating a unified pipeline of young players in the region.
“Literally the day after I bought the (Carolina RailHawks) roughly 18 months ago, these conversations started,” North Carolina FC owner Steve Malik said. “To be successful in a market like ours, it’s critical that we develop talent, and I think (MLS) knows that and everyone that’s close to football knows that.”
The TFCA governing body is being absorbed under CASL’s nonprofit charter. Former CASL CEO Gary Buete and TFCA Executive Director Marlow Campbell will both be on the new board of directors for North Carolina FC Youth, which has taken on the North Carolina FC brand.
“This decision was not taken lightly,” Campbell said. “Our membership is why we’re doing this. When we took several steps back and looked at what would be best for our membership, overwhelmingly we came to the conclusion that joining forces with CASL to become North Carolina FC Youth was the right decision.”
All the boys’ academy teams will compete under the name and branding of the North Carolina Football Club Academy and the girls will be called the North Carolina Courage Academy. The new organization’s will wear North Carolina FC and the Courage’s colors and logo on all jerseys and other team wear.
In December 2016, Malik rebranded the Carolina RailHawks to North Carolina FC and submitted a bid to join the United States’ top-tier league, Major League Soccer.
With new ownership, a fresh brand and a new partner to share the WakeMed Soccer Park grounds in the form of the National Women’s Soccer League’s North Carolina Courage, NCFC continues to take steps to change the face of soccer in the Triangle.
Malik hopes to see North Carolina FC reap the benefits of having such a large youth talent pool under its brand umbrella when attracting future players.
“I don’t see us being the (Los Angeles) Galaxy or (New York) Red Bulls, signing players that are, you know, fit for New York and L.A.,” he said, “so we want to grow players from the excellent talent pool that we have and we intended to do that all along. “
MLS has placed an emphasis on the development of homegrown players, holding a game of the league’s top homegrown talent against an international opponent in each of the past three years.
Homegrown players are also eligible to skip the MLS Draft process and sign directly with their hometown club. DeAndre Yedlin, 23, and Jordan Morris, 22, are two of the most notable homegrown products on the U.S. Men’s National Team. Both played in the Seattle Sounders’ youth academy.
“This is an unprecedented, historic moment for our area,” Malik said. “It’s going to distinguish us (in the MLS bid) … nobody has a pyramid like this.”
Buete said the top-flight academy teams will be 55 percent funded for boys’ and girls’, but the long-term goal is to eventually remove the pay-to-play system from the academy program.