NCFC will compete for the championship against Charlotte on Sunday evening at

NCFC will compete for the championship against Charlotte on Sunday evening at

North Carolina FC will compete in the league championship game for the second time ever, and the first time since 2010. They will host their in-state rival, Charlotte Independence, in the USL League One Final at WakeMed Soccer Park on Sunday, November 5th, at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN2.

NCFC secured a spot in the final after a dominant 3-1 victory against Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC at home. Meanwhile, the Independence caused an upset by defeating regular-season champions Union Omaha in a penalty shootout on the opposite side of the bracket. David Garcia, playing as center back, scored two goals in the win and Luis Perez sealed the victory with an impressive shot in the 87th minute.

The teams from North Carolina and Charlotte faced off three times during the regular season. Each team won once, with the first meeting in April resulting in a 1-1 tie. The matches, known as the Dogwood Derby, were filled with controversy and saw a total of 16 yellow cards and two red cards.

In 2023, NCFC experienced a rapid increase in performance, jumping from being in last place in 2022 to earning twice as many points this season. This success has led to head coach John Bradford being named a top contender for the USL League One Coach of the Year award, with the winner being revealed 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.

Anderson was the team leader, but other players like Rafa Mentzingen, who also made it onto the All-League First Team, and Garrett McLaughlin and Luis Perez contributed to a versatile and threatening offense for the club. This resulted in the team scoring the third-highest number of 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.

Tresor Mbuyu, the leader of Charlotte’s offense, scored nine goals for the team. However, there were four other players who each scored at least six goals this season, including Dane Kelly, the all-time leading scorer in the USL Championship. Miguel Ibarra had the most assists for the Independence this season with seven.

NCFC has the opportunity to transform from being at the bottom in 2022 to achieving great success in 2023. As they prepare to join the USL Championship in 2024, NCFC has the potential to leave a lasting impact and depart USL League One as champions.