NCFC's remarkable rise from last place to hosting the USL League One Championship game on

NCFC’s remarkable rise from last place to hosting the USL League One Championship game on

Rewritten: Louis Fernandez, WRAL Sports anchor, reported this.

North Carolina FC is set to welcome in-state foe Charlotte Independence on Sunday in Cary for the championship match of USL League One. The journey to reaching the finals has been far from simple, but head coach John Bradford envisioned this moment when he took on the role in 2021. It just required some patience.

“According to Bradford, the previous years of 2021 and 2022 were challenging due to limited funds and inexperienced players.”

In the year 2021, there were seven victories, 17 defeats, and four ties.

Last place.

In the year 2022, there were eight victories, 16 defeats, and six ties.

Last place.

However, this year marks a significant change. Things have changed significantly.

Bradford explained that the team is composed of young players who are growing and using North Carolina FC as a launching point for their careers.

Including seasoned athletes such as Rafa Mentzingen, who transferred from Chattanooga Red Wolves SC and was part of the All-League First Team, and Oalex Anderson, who was a contender for Player of the Year and previously played for Richmond Kicker, NCFC ranked second in USL League One. They secured 17 victories, surpassing the combined total of 2021 and 2022. It is worth noting that Bradford is also a finalist for Coach of the Year.

North Carolina FC semifinal win

Bradford stated that this team is the youngest in the league, with many members in their early 20s. However, despite their youth, they all possess a positive attitude and are dedicated to their work.

Nelson Flores Blanco is a member of the team who initially joined NCFC from DC United Academy in 2017. After spending two years with the club, Blanco moved to the west coast and played for two National Independent Soccer Association teams in California. He later rejoined the club in 2021.

Blanco stated that they had no prior knowledge of North Carolina, but now it feels like a second home to them.

Blanco’s family, originally from El Salvador, currently resides in Virginia. For the midfielder turned defender, hosting a league final is a complete and meaningful experience.

Playing in a professional final, especially with the club that believed in me when I was only 17 or 18 years old, is incredibly meaningful to me.

He has undergone a transformation, just like his team, at the age of 24.

According to Bradford, he has always been motivated to compete, improve and grow, but now he seems to be even more focused and precise in his efforts.

“Observing his development both on and off the field, it’s clear that he has come a long way. He recently got married and is also maturing in other aspects of his life, which is exactly the type of person we strive to have at North Carolina FC. His progress has been remarkable.”

Blanco expressed his desire to reciprocate the club’s kindness and support.

Nelson Flores Blanco embodies the essence of NCFC and its aspirations for the future.

Prior to becoming head coach, Bradford has been and remains the director of the North Carolina FC Youth Academy, where he continues to develop the club’s most promising young players. His vision of players learning, developing, and progressing alongside the team is a longstanding goal.

According to Bradford, clubs globally desire an academy that is integrated with their main team and offers chances for players. North Carolina FC stands out because we are fortunate enough to have this capability.

In 2024, NCFC will join the USL Championship, a Division II soccer league, and has also formed a partnership with Club de Fútbol Monterrey in Liga MX. This provides a definite direction and opportunity for expansion for the team.

The fact that we have made it to the USL League One final is thrilling and aligns with our goals, but Bradford emphasizes that we are not content with just participating.

“It is extremely meaningful to reach the final and have a successful season with such a fantastic team of players and staff. The support from the club has been amazing and it is gratifying to have earned a spot in the final. However, our goal is not just to make it to the final, we are determined to achieve a positive outcome.”

Blanco expressed that reaching the finals after two years of struggle made the victory even more satisfying.

This adds an emotional aspect for both us and the fans, as they have also endured with us. We hope to celebrate together at the end of the 90 or 120 minutes.

On Sunday, North Carolina FC and Charlotte Independence will begin their game at 5:00 p.m. at WakeMed Soccer Park.

USL League One trophy