“I had a dream, and I took it,” Max Flick reminiscences, now retired and back in his hometown near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The path to the Triangle and becoming a club legend, earning the North Carolina FC team MVP award and helping the team to a USL League One championship in 2023 seems like something straight out of a movie.
Max’s father, Jeff Flick, believes this true story might just be even sweeter than anything you would see on the silver screen.
“If you wrote a script, you couldn’t have made it any better,” he said.
Max had a solid collegiate career with Point Park out of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), helping the Rangers to a pair of NAIA Tournament appearances before graduating following the 2015 season.
He pushed to continue playing soccer at the professional level, bouncing around open tryouts with various clubs. He stayed sharp by playing in the semi-professional NPSL all while looking wherever he could for a fulltime opportunity. Cue the montage.
As the search and rejection compounded, he had all but given up.
“In a lot of these open tryouts you’re questioning yourself, like, ‘Am I as good as I think I am? Can I really do this?’” Max said.
In 2021, he decided to sign up for one last tryout. If this one didn’t work, the dream was over. And the odds were stacked against him.
“I had no connections. I didn’t know anybody at the club. I had no agent. I was just going. You’re hoping to make it and you’re trying to give it your all,” Max said.
Max felt the North Carolina FC tryout was different than others he had attended in the past.
“It feels like the coaches are actually watching you at that one. I’ve been to a lot of the open tryouts, and it feels like no one is even watching You’re just another playing in the pool, just playing,” Max said.
All he had was enough. Through his performance at the open tryout, Flick landed an invite to the team’s preseason camp.
“That was the first time I had ever been invited back, so I was like, ‘This is the moment.’ I was feeling really confident at that point. Once you make it out of the open tryout, I feel like that is some pressure lifted off of you,” Max said.
One step closer to his dream, he turned his attention to the grueling preseason, training and working every day to prove he belonged. Finally, after the team’s preseason scrimmage against Richmond, Flick got the news he had been waiting for. He’d made the team and would have a contract for the 2021 season.
“Honestly, at first, I don’t really think I understood what was happening. I didn’t have much of a reaction. But once I got back to the hotel and my wife was there and I was like, ‘Wow, we actually did it.’ It was crazy,” Max said.
In his first season with the team, Max logged 2,202 minutes, two goals, 99 clearances and 32 interceptions. He also won 63.6% of his tackles and 50.3% of his duels. At the end of the season, the open tryout, turned trialist, turned pro was voted by his teammates as the team MVP and Defensive Player of the Year.
“That was the best season of my career, for me, personally. Going into the season, I still had that determination that I had going through the tryouts and the dedication day in and day out. I just kind of gave everything my all and didn’t really think about it that much that first year. I was like, ‘I’m here, let’s live it up and just give everything.’ To be the MVP and play as consistently and as strong as I did, it was honestly a blessing,” Max said.
Jeff was there to see the journey every step of the way. Over his son’s three seasons with the club, he became one of the team’s biggest fans. He attended every home game and was a regular figure at away games that he could reasonably travel to.
“It was very gratifying to see Max be able to do that and just knowing how hard he worked and all the sacrifices he made to get there. There’s a whole lot of people that would have given up because it was years of tryouts, and tryouts, and tryouts. He just believed in himself and knew he could play at that level,” Jeff said.
While supporting his son was an important part of going to all the games, Jeff said it was also just simply enjoyable.
“It was a great experience, and I can say I was one of the biggest fans of the team. I personally enjoyed every minute of it. Seeing him grow and succeed, and realize his dream, was terrific,” Jeff said.
The whole family was in attendance for both Max’s debut game in 2021 and his send off, the 2023 USL League One Championship. The latter of which, Jeff described as the storybook ending the script deserved.
“We went into that day knowing that he was going to retire, with his knee injuries and the surgeries and all the sacrifice and hard work paying off, it was fantastic. The way that game went, for him to be out on the field for PKs, it was just terrific. It was like a dream come true. His mom, his brothers, we were all at his first game and his very last game. Those were the only two games that all of us were at. It was very special.”
For Max, that family support meant a lot.
“My family, my dad, my mom, my wife, my brothers, everybody supported me the whole way while I was chasing this dream. They were coming to my NPSL games. It meant a lot and it really helped me to keep going, keep pushing myself and just enjoy it,” Max said.
Max played an important role during North Carolina FC’s time in USL League One, culminating in the first-ever league final championship in team history. He announced his retirement following the season, leaving a lasting legacy with the club, his teammates, and the supporters.
Next week, North Carolina FC will hold their annual open tryouts at WakeMed Soccer Park. Max had some advice to offer anyone attending with the hopes of being the next Max Flick:
“You have to be professional and don’t overthink it. You have to go to so many to earn that experience, if you can. That was the biggest thing for me. The more times you keep going, the more you keep learning the people that are showing up at tryouts, the way the tryouts are run. For me, it would just be to not give up after the first try, second try, keep going and keep learning. If it is meant to be, it will work out,” Max said.
Registration for the 2024 open tryouts is available here.
North Carolina FC Open Try-Out Information:
Where: WakeMed Soccer Park Field 5 (101 Soccer Park Dr. Cary, NC 27511)
When: Thursday, January 18, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. and Friday, January 19, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., 2024
Registration Fee: $150.00 (Fee must be paid in full via this online registration/payment process.)
Requirements: All players must be at least 16 years old. Participants are required to bring cleats and shin guards to compete.
For any questions, please contact info@NorthCarolinaFC.com.