by Marissa Blackman
At the end of the 2016 USL season, the future of professional soccer in Wilmington was very uncertain. There were reports that the Hammerheads would not continue as a USL club, and nothing had been confirmed. Months later, USL PDL welcomed the Wilmington Hammerheads as one of the league's newest clubs. Tonight, the club held a press conference releasing further details about the PDL club.
Wilmington Hammerheads FC is now completely owned and operated by Wilmington Hammerheads Youth FC (WHYFC), the nonprofit youth soccer association affiliated with the club. Decisions for the new PDL club will be made by the WHYFC board of directors.
The team's Head Coach is Kevin Johnson, who currently serves as Director of Soccer Operations for WHYFC. Sean Guderian, a UNCW graduate andWilmington-native who has played at several levels of the local soccer scene, will act as the PDL club's General Manager.
Matches will be played at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW) soccer facilities, and players will train at Cape Fear Soccer Park, which is owned by WHYFC. The club is currently discussing the possibility of housing players on the UNCW campus.
PDL is a U-23 league where college players continue developing their skills over the summer months, and this makes Wilmington a prime location for a club. In addition to being a desirable city to spend the summer in, Wilmington lies in close proximity to several colleges with respected soccer programs. The team already has commitments from players representing UNCW, NC State, and UNC, and the club is in talks with an Ivy League athlete. Between two and four senior members WHYFC members will be given the opportunity to play for the PDL team.
Carson Porter, WHYFC Executive Director and former Wilmington Hammerheads FC Head Coach, stressed that the PDL club will aim to continue the high level of fan involvement that the USL club had. He mentioned that the club is choosing players that, among other skills, seem to be able to maintain the close-knit bond that has grown over the years between Hammerheads players and fans.
The team is set to begin making player announcements in the coming weeks, leading up to the season's start in May.