Rebranded RailHawks Launch MLS Campaign as North Carolina FC

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by JAKE NUTTING

Last week’s sneak peek at the Carolina RailHawks hyped announcement turned out to be right on the money.

At a public event on Tuesday afternoon, the team officially dropped its uniquely American Soccer RailHawks moniker in favor of the more all-encompassing North Carolina FC and launched a public effort to secure expansion spots in Major League Soccer and the National Women’s Soccer League.

“This is a brand restatement,” said team owner Steve Malik. “We aspire to be at the top level of both men’s and women’s professional soccer, so we are pursuing MLS and NWSL bids as well as a new stadium. We made a conscious decision to brand ourselves as North Carolina’s professional club. A united soccer community will be one of the keys to reaching these goals.”

The RailHawks name is not the only thing the team is ditching as a part of its new initiatives. The bright orange that has become synonymous with the RailHawks over the last decade is also being cast aside. Going forward, North Carolina FC will utilize the “Cardinal Red” and “Atlantic Blue” from the state’s flag, as well as “Southern Gold.”

North Carolina’s state flag also played a role in the team’s new crest, which will feature a similar five-point star in its center. The bottom right point of the star is split from the rest, acting a representation of the team’s location in the state’s well-known Triangle area. Tiny airplane wings bracketing the “FC” on the bottom of the logo are meant as an homage to the state’s motto “First in Flight.”

“We wanted a crest that embodied the symbols that are synonymous with the state of North Carolina,” said NCFC President and General Manager Curt Johnson. “The star, the triangle, the wings and the colors are all nods to the state’s rich culture and tradition.”

Malik is also pushing for a new stadium suitable for the MLS level, saying at Tuesday’s press conference that the team is considering eight different locations and he is hopeful they can finalize a deal and start construction in 2017. Finding a new home in short order will be necessary to meet Malik’s ambitious goal of locking in a MLS expansion spot in the next 12-18 months.

“We feel we are well positioned for this,” Malik said. “The market is ready for an MLS team based on our geographical location, population growth, dynamic economic environment and significant soccer participation. MLS requires a minimum of 20,000 seats with amenities in order to maximize revenue, and a new stadium is vital to our plans as it would increase the economic impact in the area and allow us to better showcase the sport.”

Not addressed during Tuesday’s event is what league the newly minted NCFC will compete in for the 2017 season. Numerous NASL teams are said to be negotiating a move to the USL as the NASL faces the loss of as many as six teams this offseason.