Jan 11, 2013
Cary, N.C. — The Carolina RailHawks released their 2013 schedule Thursday and an exciting match-up with major league soccer's Vancouver Whitecaps FC will kick it off on February 24.
Not only will fans be able to see a major league team and former RailHawks head coach Martin Rennie in the match, they'll also notice the expansion and improvements to Wake Med Soccer park are complete.
The park has increased stadium seating, new team facilities, restrooms, concessions and multipurpose space in a new three-story building on the stadium’s east side.
"There is an open air party deck in the expanded east side, for the 20, 30, 40-year-olds who want to come out and enjoy an adult beverage while watching the game," said president Curt Johnson. "It will bring more of an MLS atmosphere to the park and should be a lot of fun for the fans."
The stadium isn't the only facet of the RailHawks that received off-season attention, Johnson said the team is continuing to work on their roster in order to bring the most competitive team to the field.
"We have a lot of players who have ties to the area, like Brian Ackley and Zach Schilawski, that are from here or played around here in college. And we brought back a lot of the core group from last season," said Johnson. "We still have a few roster spots to fill and we are very close to announcing the signing of a big time player that has done a lot in the league."
This season also brings a complete shake-up to the format of play. NASL play will be divided into a spring and fall tournament with a tournament champion from each tournament advancing to the Soccer Bowl championship.
"It creates two competitions to make it to the finals, which I think will really put a lot of pressure on the coaches and the players to win games and be a little bit more aggressive and offensive on the field, in a sense creating more exciting opportunities throughout the year," NASL commissioner Bill Peterson.
Which Johnson says will favor the RailHawks high scoring style of play.
Peterson, a Smithfield native, begins his first year as NASL commissioner and says that along with the addition of the Cosmos team to the fall season of play, soccer fans can expect an announcement soon on another team that will join the league. Two teams are already scheduled to join in the 2014 season, Peterson hopes to add two teams a season across the United States until they reach a 20 team league.
He hopes that the additional teams will follow in the footsteps of Carolina.
"I'm very impressed with the [RailHawks] organization and what their plan is and how they are starting to connect with all of the people in the area, it's exciting because they are growing at a really nice pace, we think this will be one of our model franchises," said Peterson.
I have some roots in the area, so for me it's important that this is a very successful club and I'm confident that they will be and for me that's exciting to be able to come back to this region and see what they're doing and be so successful."