RailHawks Owners Trademark Name “AC Carolina”


Is pro soccer headed toward a re-branding in the Research Triangle of North Carolina?

Empire of Soccer has learned that Carolina FC Limited—the parent company of the Carolina RailHawks of the North American Soccer League—has trademarked the name “AC Carolina,” perhaps signaling that the RailHawk name may soon go the way of the dodo.

This trademark filing comes on the heels of Carolina FC Limited filing a trademark last week for “Carolina Courage,” the name of a former WUSA franchise, perhaps signaling that the RailHawks organization may be nearing the launch of a women’s professional soccer franchise.

The name AC Carolina—a traditional European moniker in the style of Italian giants AC Milan—would fit in with the naming conventions of many fledgling American professional soccer clubs, particularly in Major League Soccer. Of course, the RailHawks play in the NASL, not MLS.

However, the state of the NASL could be described as uneasy at best, with some clubs leaving for MLS, and other clubs rumored to be departing the league for the third-tier USL. Additionally, MLS has committed to expanding the league to 28 teams. Incidentally, the Raleigh-Durham market—home to the Cary, NC-based RailHawks, ranks as the 25th largest TV market according to the 2016 Nielsen rankings.

  • rebel fighter

    What is a Railhawk? Good decision to change the name. Is there a possible move to USL or MLS for this team?

  • Ben

    That market would be a great addition to MLS.

  • Jarrett Campbell

    We’ve also trademarked Carolina Flight. And there are probably others out there too that we haven’t found. Given what we know about Malik’s ambition to bring in other sports (Rugby, Lacrosse have both been mentioned) as well as additional soccer teams (Womens), Athletic Club Carolina does make a certain logical sense as an overarching brand. He could have an AC Carolina Men’s team (The RailHawks) a women’s team (The Courage) and a rugby team (The Flight). Or he could be thinking something completely different…

    • Barmy_Army

      AC Carolina makes a helluva lot more logical sense than ‘Railhawk’. Sorry to be critical, but the origin story of that name is ridiculous. Laughed off, dismissed, then only thought twice about by you guys because of its singular (unwonted) branding potential? That doesn’t strike me as something good for Carolina soccer in the long-run or something that should have ever been taken seriously. At least with AC, people in the Triangle can hope the team becomes nationally recognized. Personally, I think the team should be cleverly rebranded to reflect the colors, natural resources and/or successes of our state. Flight is a great starting point, but it’s very abstract. We aren’t known for any particular kind of flight, other than being first. Pines and pine cones, though, are actually hugely symbolic, could be a nice tie-in to our regional history of tar production without infringing upon UNCs moniker. The native tribes, too, valued the pine for its protective stuffs and longevity. Do some research. something iconic, between Portland Timbers and Nottingham Forest. Or ignore me, doesn’t matter.

      • Poldark

        Agreed. Railhawks sounds like the name of a minor league baseball team with all the camp that goes with it. AC Carolina is generic enough that people can ascribe their own nicknames with out feeling foolish.

  • Seven Swords

    Good riddance to the Railhawks brand, regardless of what league we’re in. When I go to the games, I just refer to the team as Carolina anyway.

  • Peter pan

    So are they going to USL and who’s following them?
    I would love to see a USl with independent teams and a USL2 as the reserve league for MLS.
    Imagine the cosmos and Tampa bay in the USL

    • Philip

      Yeah, they should spinoff the independent USL teams into a different league, especially if several NASL clubs are going to jump ship. Tampa Bay and Ottawa look like they could be making the jump. I’m not sure about the Cosmos though. I think they might try to stick it out in the NASL.

      • Peter pan

        Why would cosmos stick to nasl?
        Unless nasl makes news rules and recruit serious billionaires and only the contenders stay and not pretenders.

        • Philip

          As long as there is an NASL they aren’t going to play in any other league.

          • mattk

            don’t worry, there won’t be a real league nasl next year, the real question is would the USL even except the cosmos with all the issues they’ve caused, agitation for pro/rel, lawsuit threats, etc… who would want to do business with them?…

            • Philip

              That is a different story altogether. They might have an issue finding a league that will have them. Although they might start another one with the teams that don’t move to the USL.

  • Alex gago

    what I don’t understand is these nasl clubs who move to USL third division have no chance of ever entering Division 1 major league soccer with a hundred million dollar price tag will be second division for ever they could never afford to get into the MLS at that price tag

    • mattk

      clubs have no chance whatsoever of attaining anything in the nasl, the league will be in the gutter soon. USL is a better league anyhow, lower buy-in with many more teams around the US, better attendance and a winning US Open CUp record between the leagues…

    • Philip

      USL might get division 2 status. And if they have MLS aspirations big money investors come in. That’s what is happening in Sacramento.