CARY, N.C. (Nov. 3, 2023) — North Carolina FC is back in a league final for the second time in team history, and first time since 2010, hosting in-state rival Charlotte Independence in the USL League One Final at WakeMed Soccer Park on Sunday, November 5, at 5:00 p.m. ET. The match will air on ESPN2 and tickets for the final are available here.
NCFC advanced to the final with a strong 3-1 home win over Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC, while the Independence upset regular-season champions Union Omaha in penalties on the other side of the bracket.
Center back David Garcia scored a brace in the win and Luis Perez capped off the victory with a stellar strike in the 87th minute.
North Carolina and Charlotte met three times in the regular season, with each team claiming victory once after the teams drew 1-1 in their first meeting in April. The contentious regular season renditions of the Dogwood Derby netted a combined 16 yellow cards and two red cards.
NCFC had a meteoric rise in 2023, going from last place in 2022 to double the points this season en route to a first-round playoff bye. That improvement has head coach John Bradford as a finalist for the USL League One Coach of the Year award, which will be announced on Wednesday, November 8.
North Carolina are led by USL League One Player of the Year finalist Oalex Anderson, who racked up 17 goals during the 2023 campaign.
While Anderson led the way, players like Rafa Mentzingen – who joins Anderson on the All-League First Team – and Garrett McLaughlin and Louis Perez created a well-rounded and dangerous attack for the club, which scored the third-most goals in the league.
On the defensive side, only one team conceded fewer goals than NCFC’s 37. The defense features a veteran back line with stout center backs Garcia and Gustavo Fernandes, USL League One all-league first teamer Mikey Maldonado in the center midfield role, and fast, physical outside backs Nelson Flores Blanco and Chris Lue Young. There is also plenty of depth with the likes of DJ Benton, Jaden Servania, breakout star Raheem Somersall and many others make this team very difficult to pick apart.
Charlotte’s attack is spearheaded by Tresor Mbuyu, who led the team with nine goals, but four different players scored at least six goals this season, including the USL Championship’s all-time leading scorer, Dane Kelly. Miguel Ibarra led the Independence in assists this season with seven.
North Carolina FC has the chance to go from the wooden spoon in 2022 to solid gold in 2023. With the team set to make the jump to the USL Championship in 2024, NCFC can leave a legacy and exit USL League One on top. A team that breaks every huddle with the chant, “FAMILY,” will have a chance to accomplish this special feat together in front of their home crowd.