Western New York Flash

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Western New York Flash
Western New York Flash.png
Full nameWestern New York Flash Football Club
Stadium All-High Stadium
Buffalo, New York
OwnerJoe Sahlen
President Alexandra Sahlen
League United Women's Soccer
Website Club website
Soccerball current event.svg Current season

The Western New York Flash (WNYF) was an American professional soccer club based in Elma, New York that competed in the United Women's Soccer league. They have won league championships in four different leagues: the USL W-League in 2010, Women's Professional Soccer in 2011, Women's Premier Soccer League Elite in 2012, and the National Women's Soccer League in 2016. The team relocated to North Carolina in 2017 as the North Carolina Courage.

Elma, New York Town in New York, United States

Elma is a town in Erie County, New York, United States. The population was 11,317 at the 2010 census. The town is named after a type of tree.

United Womens Soccer

United Women's Soccer is a second-division pro-am women's soccer league in the United States. The league was founded in 2015 as a response to the dual problems of disorganization in the WPSL and of the folding of the USL W-League. The league began play in May 2016 with eleven teams in two conferences. The league currently has 23 teams in 4 conferences.

The USL W-League was a North American women's soccer developmental organization. The W-League was also an open league, giving college players the opportunity to play alongside established international players while maintaining their collegiate eligibility. The league was administered by the United Soccer Leagues system, which also oversees the men's United Soccer League and Premier Development League. The W-League announced on November 6, 2015 that the league will cease operation ahead of 2016 season.


The team was founded in 2008 as the Buffalo Flash and played in the USL W-League from 2008–2010. In 2011, the team became the Western New York Flash and joined Women's Professional Soccer (WPS), its only season in the league. In 2012, the team was a member of Women's Premier Soccer League Elite (WPSL-E) following the folding of the WPS. The Flash won three consecutive league championships from 2010 to 2012 under head coach Aaran Lines: W-League in 2010, WPS in 2011, and WPSL-E in 2012. The Flash reached the inaugural NWSL Championship during the 2013 season, but fell to the Portland Thorns FC while searching for their fourth-straight title. In 2016, the team won the NWSL Championship for the first and only time. [1]

Womens Professional Soccer defunct soccer league and highest level of womens soccer in the United States

Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) was the top level professional women's soccer league in the United States. It began play on March 29, 2009. The league was composed of seven teams for its first two seasons and fielded six teams for the 2011 season, with continued plans for future expansion. The WPS was the highest level in the United States soccer pyramid for the women's game.

Womens Premier Soccer League Elite defunct soccer league, formerly the highest level of womens soccer in the United States

The Women's Premier Soccer League Elite was a women's semi-professional soccer league created by the Women's Premier Soccer League (WPSL) to support the sport in the United States, both from continued interest by WPSL teams in professionalism and as a response to the suspension of the WPS.

Aaran Franklyn Lines is a retired New Zealand association football player and former head coach of the Western New York Flash. He has represented New Zealand at international level.

The team is owned by the Sahlen family, who run the Sahlen's meat packing company in Buffalo. [2] Joe Sahlen is the team's owner. His daughter, Alex Sahlen, is the team President and a former defender on the team. [3]


Sahlen's or Sahlen Packing Co., Inc., is an American meat processing company headquartered in Buffalo, New York. The company was founded by Joseph Sahlen in 1869, and specializes in hot dogs. Sahlen's, however, also markets beef, smokehouse ham, and turkey breast products.

Meat packing industry handles the slaughtering, processing, packaging, and distribution of meat from animals such as cattle, pigs, sheep and other livestock. Poultry is not included.

The meat packing industry handles the slaughtering, processing, packaging, and distribution of meat from animals such as cattle, pigs, sheep and other livestock. Poultry is not included. This greater part of the entire meat industry is primarily focused on producing meat for human consumption, but it also yields a variety of by-products including hides, feathers, dried blood, and, through the process of rendering, fat such as tallow and protein meals such as meat & bone meal.

Buffalo, New York City in Western New York

Buffalo is the second largest city in the U.S. state of New York and the largest city in Western New York. As of 2018, the population was 256,304. The city is the county seat of Erie County and a major gateway for commerce and travel across the Canada–United States border, forming part of the bi-national Buffalo Niagara Region.



In 2009, Buffalo Flash made its debut in the Great Lakes (formerly Northern) Division of the Central Conference, lining up against teams from Hamilton, Laval, London, Ottawa, Quebec City, Rochester and Toronto. It finished second, with a regular season record of 9–2–3 from their 14 matches, undefeated in their seven games on the road, and with 40 goals scored, and 10 conceded. In the post-season playoffs, the Flash reached the Central Conference semi-final, to end their inaugural season with a 10–3–3 record. They were beaten 3–0 by FC Indiana, the only other full-time professional outfit in the league. [4]

The 2009 team roster included players from six countries across four continents. There were four local players from Western NY, various US players from numerous states (including two with USA U-20 National Team experience), players from the full Italian National Team, Portuguese National Team, South African National Team, and also from Spain and Japan. To aid team bonding, the squad were housed in the same apartment complex. [4]

Italy womens national football team womens national association football team representing Italy

The Italy women's national football team has represented Italy in international women's football since their inception in 1968. The team is controlled by the Italian Football Federation (FIGC), the governing body for football in Italy.

Portugal womens national football team womens national association football team representing Portugal

The Portugal women's national football team represents Portugal in international women's football competition. The team is controlled by the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF) and competes as a member of UEFA in various international football tournaments such as the FIFA Women's World Cup, UEFA Women's Euro, the Summer Olympics, and the Algarve Cup.

The South Africa national women's football team, nicknamed Banyana Banyana, is the national team of South Africa and is controlled by the South African Football Association.


Before the 2010 season Buffalo Flash signed English trio Gemma Davison, Eartha Pond and Ann-Marie Heatherson. [5] Mele French and Kelly Parker arrived from German club SC Freiburg. [6] Kimberly Brandão returned despite attending a training camp with Sky Blue FC, but Erika Sutton left for the Boston Breakers [7] and Sarah Wagenfuhr joined St. Louis Athletica. [8]

Gemma Davison Association footballer

Gemma Suzanne Davison is an English footballer. She plays as a winger for FA WSL club Tottenham Hotspur, whom she joined from Chelsea in 2018. After joining Arsenal at youth team level from Watford Ladies, Davison became a regular player and won several trophies. She also spent time in the United States playing for various American clubs in three separate spells. Davison is a full senior international player for the England women's national football team.

Ann-Marie Heatherson Association footballer

Ann-Marie "Annie" Heatherson is an English footballer who plays as a forward and Captain for Yeovil Town of the FA WSL. She began her career with Charlton Athletic and played for rival London clubs Fulham, Millwall Lionesses and Chelsea Ladies after Charlton folded their women's team in 2007. Heatherson also enjoyed short spells in Iceland and the United States before joining Bristol Academy ahead of the inaugural 2011 FA WSL season, where she was also employed by the club as an ambassador. Heatherson represented England up to Under-21 level and was named in senior squads but never capped. She was named the FA Women's Young Player of the Year in 2004.

Mele French is an American soccer forward who played for the NWSL's Seattle Reign FC and W-League's Seattle Sounders Women in 2015. French was named the W-League's Most Valuable Player for the 2014 season.

In 2010 Buffalo Flash competed in the Midwest Division of the USL W-League, finishing the regular season 14–0–2 against Chicago Red Eleven, Cleveland Internationals, Kalamazoo Outrage and London Gryphons. [9] Buffalo Flash won the W-League Championship by defeating the Vancouver Whitecaps 3–1 at Harry Welch Stadium in Santa Clarita, California. [10] They finished the season undefeated, while Kelly Parker was named W-League MVP. [10]


The Flash face off at home against Philadelphia for the 2011 WPS Championship Women's Professional Soccer - 2011 Championship - Flash vs Independence.jpg
The Flash face off at home against Philadelphia for the 2011 WPS Championship

The team made plans to move to Women's Professional Soccer for the 2011 season. In September 2010, team president Alex Sahlen and coach Aaran Lines—both of whom have played for Rochester-based soccer teams—indicated that the team was looking at playing up to half of its WPS home games at Rochester's Marina Auto Stadium (now Rhinos Stadium). [3] On September 24, WPS officially confirmed that the new team would indeed join the league. [11] The name of the WPS team was announced as the Western New York Flash on December 1, 2010. [12] The September announcement confirmed that the team would play half its home games at Marina Auto Stadium. The remaining games were originally intended to be played at Niagara Field, a smaller facility on the campus of Niagara University in Lewiston that was set to be expanded to 4,000 for the 2011 WPS season. [13] The league also attempted to negotiate a deal with All-High Stadium in Buffalo, although the owners of the field, Buffalo Public Schools, never responded. However, the December announcement indicated that the entire 2011 home schedule would be in Rochester. [12]

The Flash selected Alex Morgan with the first pick in the 2011 WPS Draft. [14]

On January 25, 2011, the Flash signed 2009 and 2010 WPS MVP and WPS Golden Boot Marta. [15]

With a 13–2–3 regular season record, the Flash earned the regular season title and the right to host the WPS Championship presented by Citi. On August 27, 2011, Western New York Flash capped their inaugural season in WPS by capturing the 2011 WPS Championship title 1–1 (5–4) in a penalty kick shootout in front of the largest championship crowd in league history. [16]


When it was announced that WPS had suspended its 2012 season, the Flash announced their plans to continue playing [17] and shortly thereafter joined the new Women's Premier Soccer League Elite. During the 2012 playoffs, the Flash won the championship in penalty kicks. [18]


The Flash joined the newly formed National Women's Soccer League for its inaugural 2013 season. The team won the first-ever NWSL Shield after finishing in first during the regular season though they ended the season tied for first place with both FC Kansas City and Portland Thorns FC, but won the tiebreak over both teams to claim the shield. With the number one seed, the Flash earned home field advantage through the playoffs, and drew No. 4 Sky Blue FC for its semifinal match. [19]

The team shutout Sky Blue 2–0 in the opening game, earning the right to host the Thorns in the 2013 NWSL Championship at Sahlen's Stadium in Rochester. [20] The Flash ultimately finished second, losing to Portland in the championship game to the score of 2–0, denying the Flash a bid for a record-breaking fourth-straight title in a fourth different league. [21]


The Flash had one of their first down years during the 2014 season, unable to reach the heights of the previous season. They missed the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, placing seventh out of nine teams in NWSL. [22]


The Flash once again had a disappointing season, once again missing the playoffs with a seventh-place finish out of nine teams. The low finishes for the team in the past two seasons caused for quite a few cases of transition, most notably with long time head coach Aaran Lines who was eventually replaced by Paul Riley. [22]


The Flash had quite a bit of roster turnover as well as a new coach so expectations were low for the season, but the Flash ended up making the playoffs for the first time since the inaugural NWSL season. [23] The semi-finals saw the Flash upset the top seed Portland Thorns FC away from home after scoring two goals during extra-time, thus partially avenging their NWSL Cup loss to the Thorns in 2013. [24] The NWSL Championship saw the Flash face the Washington Spirit in Houston. The Flash eventually came out on top, winning their first ever NWSL Championship. [25] This ended up being the final season for the WNY Flash in NWSL, with the franchise rights being sold to the owners of North Carolina FC, moved to Cary, North Carolina, and rebranded as the North Carolina Courage. [26]


On March 7, 2017, the Flash announced that they would join the United Women's Soccer for their upcoming season, with the team playing matches in Buffalo for the first time since 2010. [27] This is the fifth league overall that the Flash have played in during their nine years of existence. Gary Bruce, an assistant under Paul Riley, was named the new head coach. [28]


In 2009 the team played their home games at Orchard Park High School Field, in Orchard Park, New York, 15 miles south-east of downtown Buffalo, New York, and trained daily at the nearby Sahlen's Sports Park in Elma, New York. In 2010 the team played home games at the Demske Sports Complex at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York. [29]

In February 2011, the Sahlen family obtained the naming rights to Marina Auto Stadium in Rochester, which was called Sahlen's Stadium from 2011 through 2015. [30] [31] After that time, the team played their home games in Rochester.

The stadium has a seating capacity of 13,768. The stadium's highest attendance record was set on July 20, 2011 at 15,404 during a match between the Flash and magicJack (led by player-coach and Rochester native, Abby Wambach) after the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup. The game was also the largest single-game crowd in WPS history. [32]

The UWS Flash play most of their home matches at Niagara University, with one match in 2017 played at All-High Stadium. [33]

Colors and badge

The Flash's home colors were white and away colors are red. [29] The Flash logo was designed to reflect that of Sahlen's, the team's parent company.


YearLeagueRecord W-L-TRegular SeasonPlayoffsAvg. Attendance
2009 USL W-League 9–2–32nd, Great Lakes DivisionCentral Conference Semifinal210
2010 USL W-League 10–0–21st, Midwest DivisionUSL W-League Champions236
2011 WPS 13–2–31stWPS Champions4,881
2012 WPSL Elite 9–2–32ndWPSL Elite Champions
2013 NWSL 10–4–81stRunner-Up4,485
2014 NWSL 8–12–47thDid not qualify3,177
2015 NWSL 6–9–57thDid not qualify2,860
2016 NWSL 9–6–54thNWSL Champions3,868
2017 UWS 4–4–25th, East ConferenceDid not qualify
2018 UWS 5–5–05th, East ConferenceDid not qualify


Notable former players

Former members of the team who have represented their respective senior national teams are:

Coaching staff

From 2009 to 2015, Aaran Lines led the team as head coach winning three consecutive league championships and the inaugural NWSL Shield. [34] After he resigned in 2015, Paul Riley led the team to its first NWSL Championship in 2016, with Scott Vallow as an assistant and interim head coach during Riley's suspensions. [35] Charlie Naimo served as Technical Director from 2014–2016. [36]

Gary Bruce serves as head coach of the Flash's United Women's Soccer team. [28]



See also

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Further reading