Wilmington Hammerheads FC
|Full name||Wilmington Hammerheads Youth Football Club|
|Executive Director||Carson Porter|
Wilmington Hammerheads FC was a semi-professional American soccer team based in Wilmington, North Carolina. Founded in 1996, the team last competed in the Premier Development League, the fourth tier of the American Soccer Pyramid in 2017.
The Hammerheads had one championship in 2003, and were a finalist in 2002 and 2012, losing to the Long Island Rough Riders 2–1 in 2002 and losing 0–1 to the Charleston Battery in 2012. Wilmington found great success in the US Open Cup in their later years, regularly drawing MLS teams in the late rounds. Their most famous result occurred in 2003 when they drew the Dallas Burn, an MLS team, in the middle of a particularly bad year. They shocked the soccer world by defeating the Burn 4–1 at Legion Sports Complex before bowing out to D.C. United 1–0 in the quarterfinal round. The Hammerheads regularly drew well over 2,000 fans per game, and had drawn nearly 5,000 for playoff games. On June 30, 2009, the Hammerheads upset the Chicago Fire in the third round of the 2009 US Open Cup 1–0 at home.
The team went on hiatus in 2010 and returned for the 2011 USL PRO regular season, due to local businessman Bill Rudisill and a minority ownership group combining their efforts and financial support to the Port City. Following the 2011 USL PRO regular season, the Hammerheads competed in the division semifinals. In 2012, the Hammerheads finished their regular season with an overall record of 10–7–7 After qualifying for playoffs, they defeated both the Richmond Kickers and Orlando City Lions to obtain their spot in the finals versus the Charleston Battery whom took the 2012 USL PRO Championship title at Blackbaud Stadium after defeating the Hammerheads 1–0. The Hammerheads fell short of qualifying for a playoff position following their 2013 regular season.
In September 2013, the Wilmington Hammerheads announced that after three years of dedicated ownership, Bill Rudisill would no longer be majority owner of the team and that George Altirs, CEO of Capelli New York, has taken the role of Wilmington Hammerheads Owner.
In January 2014, the Wilmington Hammerheads entered a developmental partnership deal with Major League Soccer side Toronto FC that would see a minimum of four Toronto players come to Wilmington with the goal of gaining first team experience. In August 2014, the Hammerheads' longtime head coach, Englishman David Irving, stepped down from his position following fifteen seasons with the club.
On August 1, 2016, it was reported that the Hammerheads were planning another hiatus from the USL, beginning with the 2017 season. This would allow the club to restructure "in order to keep pace with the growth in stature of the USL." Six weeks later, the Washington Post reported that the Hammerheads were a possible contender to move to Baltimore, Maryland for the 2018 season, noting that Wilmington is the smallest of the league's twenty-nine markets. The team self-relegated to the Premier Development League on September 29, 2016.
After the 2017 season, the PDL team was disbanded. The organization continues as a youth soccer academy under the name "Wilmington Hammerheads Youth FC".
- Legion Stadium; Wilmington, North Carolina (2003–2009, 2011–2016)
- UNCW Soccer Stadium; Wilmington, North Carolina (2017)
Notable former players
- USL PRO Championship Finalist 2012
- USL Second Division Regular Season Champions 2009
- USL Pro Select League Champions 2003
- USL D-3 Pro League Southern Division Champions 2002
- USL D-3 Pro League Southern Division Champions 2001
|Year||Division||League||Reg. Season||Playoffs||Open Cup||Avg Attendance|
|1996||3||USISL Pro League||3rd, South Atlantic||Semifinals||Did not qualify||1,310|
|1997||3||USISL D-3 Pro League||5th, South Atlantic||Did not qualify||1st Round||1,146|
|1998||3||USISL D-3 Pro League||6th, Atlantic||Division Semifinals||Did not qualify||778|
|1999||3||USL D-3 Pro League||2nd, Atlantic||Conference Finals||2nd Round||1,208|
|2000||3||USL D-3 Pro League||2nd, Southern||Conference Quarterfinals||2nd Round||1,506|
|2001||3||USL D-3 Pro League||1st, Southern||Conference Finals||Did not qualify||2,312|
|2002||3||USL D-3 Pro League||1st, Southern||Final||Did not qualify||2,554[a]|
|2003||3||USL Pro Select League||2nd, Southern||Champion||Quarterfinals||2,829|
|2004||3||USL Pro Soccer League||2nd, Southern||Quarterfinals||3rd Round||2,270|
|2005||3||USL Second Division||4th||Semifinals||3rd Round||3,317[a]|
|2006||3||USL Second Division||8th||Did not qualify||4th Round||3,072[a]|
|2007||3||USL Second Division||7th||Did not qualify||Did not qualify||2,978[a]|
|2008||3||USL Second Division||7th||Did not qualify||Did not qualify||2,577[a]|
|2009||3||USL Second Division||1st||Semifinals||Quarterfinals||2,467|
|2011||3||USL Pro||2nd, American||Division Semifinals||3rd Round||4,053|
|2012||3||USL Pro||5th||Championship||3rd Round||4,265|
|2013||3||USL Pro||9th||Did not qualify||3rd Round||3,162|
|2014||3||USL Pro||7th||Quarterfinals||2nd Round||2,326|
|2015||3||USL||12th, Eastern||Did not qualify||2nd Round||2,960|
|2016||3||USL||9th, Eastern||Did not qualify||4th Round||3,000|
|2017||4||USL PDL||8th, South Atlantic||Did not qualify||Did not qualify||—|
- Top attendance in league.
The primary supporters group is the Port City Firm. The group was founded in 1997 and stuck together during the team's hiatus year in 2010. A second group, the East Side Ultras, was founded in 2015 and are identified by their sky blue helmets/hats and black shirts.
- "Toronto FC announce partnership with USL Pro club – Waking The Red". wakingthered.com. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
- "NYCFC Announce Affiliation with Wilmington Hammerheads". nycfc.com. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
- Hollingsworth, Chad. "Aztex & Hammerheads Out for 2017 USL Season". Scratching the Pitch. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
- Goff, Steven. "Are USL's Wilmington Hammerheads moving to Baltimore?". The Washington Post. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
- "Wilmington Hammerheads FC Awarded PDL Franchise". Premier Development League (PDL). September 29, 2016. Retrieved September 29, 2016.
- "Attendance Project: Div. III". kenn.com blog.
- Meet the Port City Firm (Press Release), Wilimington Hammerheads, June 4, 2012, retrieved July 21, 2015
- USL Pro Supporter Group Q&A: The Port city Firm, Reckless Challenge, March 6, 2013, retrieved July 21, 2015