North Carolina FC completed its long-awaited move to the United Soccer League on Thursday.
The club, formerly known as the Carolina Railhawks, has played in the North American Soccer League since it re-formed in 2011 but will now switch over to USL, which is more closely affiliated with Major League Soccer and gained provisional Division 2 status from the U.S. Soccer Federation this year.
"We are excited to be joining the USL effective immediately," owner Steve Malik said. "The USL has seen tremendous growth, not only in new markets and franchises, but in the quality of play and fan awareness. We look forward to contributing to that growth in years to come."
Malik is also attempting to bring his club into MLS as one of 12 locations vying for one of for expansion slots in the top flight. The club hosted MLS deputy commissioner Mark Abbott in July.
The move leaves the NASL with seven teams for the moment, though the San Francisco Deltas' future remains in serious doubt despite winning the title on Sunday. The league, which was denied Division 2 status for next season, plans to add two California teams in Fullerton and San Diego for 2018.
NCFC will be one of five new teams in USL next season, joining clubs in Fresno, Las Vegas and Nashville, as well as Atlanta United's new reserves team.
But the USL could also lose a team as the owners of the Rochester Rhinos announced on Wednesday that they need to raise $1.3 million in two weeks or risk not playing next season.
"We are at a crossroads, and need to find a path that will bring sustained success for the Rhinos and all they mean to Rochester," co-owner David Dworkin said in a statement. "We want the Rhinos legacy to continue, and doing so means creating a partnership that includes more than just the players, die-hard fans and a few dedicated corporate supporters."