WILMINGTON, NC (NEWS RELEASE) – The Wilmington Hammerheads, one of the most successful minor league soccer franchises in U.S. history, will return in 2011 as part of USL PRO. Led by majority owner Bill Rudisill and Head Coach/Director of Soccer David Irving, the Hammerheads will return to Legion Stadium and become a cornerstone franchise for USL PRO, which also includes powerhouse franchises such as the Rochester Rhinos and Orlando City SC (formerly Austin Aztex).
Designed to help ensure the long-term stability of professional soccer in North America, USL PRO will feature 18-20 teams in 2011 and will have a national broadcast package, with USL expected to continue its nine-year partnership with Fox Soccer Channel for the coverage of its top professional league.
“It is a thrill to be a part of bringing the Wilmington Hammerheads back to Legion Stadium and to the Wilmington fans,” said Rudisill, who will be joined by partners Dr. Clyde Harris, Cindy Harris, Dr. Mario Basegoda and Dr. Sara Borcherding. “The Hammerheads are very much a part of our local culture and it is our hope that you will support us again as you did before.”
Founded in 1996, the Hammerheads enjoyed a great deal of on-field success, reaching the playoffs in 10 of 14 seasons and capturing the 2003 USL Second Division title. They also pulled off some memorable upsets in the U.S. Open Cup, knocking off MLS sides Dallas Burn in 2003 and Chicago Fire in 2009.
Fan support has never been an issue for the Hammerheads, who enjoyed the committed backing of their fan club, the Port City Firm, and routinely drew 2,500-plus at Legion Field during the regular season and upwards of 5,000 during the playoffs. Among the players who have starred for the Hammerheads is Jamie Watson, who was named USL-2 MVP in Wilmington in 2009 and starred this past season with the Austin Aztex.
“We’re elated to have a storied franchise such as the Hammerheads back in the league, and that the loyal fans in Wilmington will enjoy the return of professional soccer,” Senior Director of USL PRO Chris Economides said. “We are thankful to Bill Rudisill and the other investors for helping make this day a reality.”
“It’s great that the Hammerheads are returning to Wilmington,” City of Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said. “They’ve been missed by many people since they’ve been gone, and this will bring a lot of renewed excitement and opportunity for our community. We appreciate the efforts of the new owner ship group that is bringing the Hammerheads back, and I know the fans and citizens of Wilmington are looking forward to a lot of exciting soccer.”
Hammerheads ticket packages are already on sale for the 2011 USL PRO season, with general admission prices set at $10 for adults, $6 for children 12-under. Welcome Back and Holiday Season Special season ticket packages start as low as $100 for adults and $60 for children 12-under. Sponsorship packages are also available. For more information visit www.wilmingtonhammerheads.com or call the Hammerheads offices at 910.777.2111.
Focused on franchise stability and longevity, USL PRO will feature an unprecedented six teams with more than 10 years of operational experience, and more than 100 years of combined operational experience. The league will be led by a Board of Governors responsible for making all major decisions for the league including expansion, competition format and commercial strategy. Additional franchises participating in USL PRO for the 2011 season will be announced in the upcoming weeks.
United Soccer Leagues
Founded in 1986, United Soccer Leagues has become the largest organization of elite-level soccer leagues in North America by building on the vision, commitment, and passion of players, fans and investors. Now in its third decade of operation, USL continues to be a driving force in the growth of soccer in the United States, Canada and Caribbean. USL provides a clearly defined path for the progression of male and female soccer players beginning at the youth level (USL Super Y-League/USL Super-20 League), continuing through the amateur level (USL Premier Development League/USL W-League) and up to the professional level, both outdoor and indoor (USL PRO, I-League). A platform for countless players to reach for their dreams each year, USL is devoted to developing the sport at the grassroots level in every community across the region.