announced last week
that Traffic Sports USA was selling controlling interest in the North American Soccer League (NASL) club to a Brazilian investment group, chatter ensued about the effect this would have on various soccer entities. But besides the Strikers themselves, the group most affected by this sale is the Carolina RailHawks.
Carolina is now the last NASL team owned by Traffic Sports USA, the American arm of the Brazil-based sports management company that not only bankrolled a large portion of the NASL after its breakaway from the United Soccer Leagues (USL), but also once held controlling interest in three members clubs—the RailHawks, Strikers and Atlanta Silverbacks.
Traffic Sports USA reformed the RailHawks brand and assumed majority interest of the team after former owner Selby Wellman dissolved the club’s governing limited liability company in Dec. 2010. Since the RailHawks’ reformation under the Traffic Sports USA umbrella and the arrival of club president Curt Johnson, Carolina has enjoyed a resurgence on and off the field. Attendance has risen annually (although stagnant this year compared to 2013), and Carolina continues to post winning records and success in U.S. Open Cup competition.
Nevertheless, the RailHawks’ overall team budget and player payroll languishes in the bottom half of the league. Local fans have largely overlooked this inequity due to the RailHawks’ on-field success, but also because supporters remain grateful for Traffic’s rescue of the RailHawks franchise and realize that Traffic’s resources have been spread over several NASL teams and the league itself.
Now, however, Traffic’s lone majority interest in the RailHawks means those fans will contrast team expenditures to spendthrift owners in New York, Tampa Bay, Minnesota, San Antonio and now Fort Lauderdale. It’s a new reality Traffic Sports USA and the RailHawks are also cognizant of—last Friday, the same date the Strikers sale was officially announced, the RailHawks published a press release
in which Aaron Davidson, President of Traffic Sports USA, is quoted as saying Traffic Sport USA is now “thrilled to focus our time, energy and resources on professional soccer in North Carolina.”
Davidson, who is also Chairman of the NASL Board of Governors, spoke further to INDY Week
by telephone last Sunday evening. He says Traffic Sports USA is pleased that Carolina is now their sole NASL stake.