Date:Thursday July 3 2008
You may be aware we kick-off our pre-season friendlies next week with the start of the US tour and our first match a week today against Carolina Railhawks.
We have during the summer been inviting a number of US fans over to our special forum Matchday Mayhem US for some friendly banter. We were delighted therefore to be contacted on the forum by Jarrett Campbell, the founder of the Carolina RailHawks Independent Supporters Club. We provide his post below providing lots of information about his club with help and advice offered.
My name is Jarrett Campbell and I'm the founder of the Carolina RailHawks Independent Supporters Club, a group called the Triangle Soccer Fanatics. We're excited about your visit to Cary, NC this summer and I'll try to answer as many questions as you have about our club, the match, etc.
A great place to start is our fan site, http://www.trisoccerfan.com. There you'll find daily updates on what's happening with all of our club sides and some video highlights to give you an idea of what play is like here in the States.
One of your team,Smitrit mentioned one forum site for USL, but most of the RailHawks discussion actually takes place at a different site. You might have a look around at BigSoccer:
There is a very detailed page on the club at Wikipedia which I help maintain. It will answer most of your questions about the club's brief history:
I am also one of the aforementioned fans that named the club. A mate and I won a contest the club was having to name the team. RailHawks wasn't my first choice for the club (I wanted something more traditional), but it was a unique name that I thought was marketable enough in a very crowded pro sports industry in the United States to win the contest...and sure enough, I'm now the owner of 2 season tickets for life as a result of winning the contest. The full story behind the name is here:
We play at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary. Again, Wikipedia is a great resource to learn more about this wonderful ground:
I may be a bit biased, but I believe it is one of the best soccer parks in America, outside our first division (Major League Soccer). Of particular note, the United States National Team conducted their pre-World Cup training camps at the facility prior to both the 2002 and 2006 World Cups and Sunderland and Sheffield Wednesday have both used the facility as a summer training sites in recent years.
The RailHawks are in the United Soccer Leagues First Division (USL-1). While there is no promotion and relegation between Major League Soccer (MLS) and USL-1 or USL-2, most people consider MLS to be our First Division and USL-1 to be our Second Division in this country. The talent gap between the two leagues is very small, with the exception of 1-3 players per MLS team where some high priced internationals are playing in MLS (think David Beckham, Claudio Lopez, and Juan Pablo Angel).
In our first season we made it to the semifinals of the US Open Cup, our equivalent to the FA Cup. We beat a Major League Soccer team (Chicago Fire) in the 3rd Round and then lost in extra time in the semifinal to New England Revolution, a team that went on to win the Open Cup and to go to the MLS Cup final (league title game). In the League, we made the USL-1 playoffs and were eliminated by Seattle, the team that eventually won the USL-1 championship. So we were eliminated from both competitions by the eventual champions. Very respectable for our first season I think.
I'm sure many of you are questioning the decision to play our PDL team (U23 side). I'll explain a little about the PDL system in the USA. PDL stands for Premier Development League and it is an amateur league made up mostly of university age players. These players' primary 'club' is their university side, but due to NCAA regulations that balance student life with athletics, they cannot play/practice year-round together. It is one of the quirks of the US system that hurts our ability to develop great soccer players, but nevertheless, that's the way it is.
Our university soccer system is very strong and many players that could be playing professionally in lower division sides in the US and Europe will go to college instead and get a degree, while getting their education paid for by playing sports. In order to maintain their eligibility to play for their university side for 4 years, they may not sign a professional contract during their playing time at university. That's where the PDL comes in. For the summer months when they are not in school, players from various universities come together to play in the PDL for their local clubs. Since PDL is an amateur league, the players do not forfeit their university eligibility.
Our U23 team is a virtual Select XI from the local university sides. The Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina has a fine tradition for college soccer and our team has a very strong roster. Last year, 8 of the players from our U23 side signed professional contracts as soon as they graduated from University. This season, Burnley will be facing a side with no fewer than 5 players from last year's NCAA National Championship team (Wake Forest University) along with quite a few top players from other local universities like Duke, University of North Carolina, North Carolina State, and Clemson. One player to watch in particular is Michael Videira. He graduated from Duke University this spring and was drafted by an MLS side but refused to sign a contract with them due to the long terms (5 years they wanted). Instead, he decided to wait until the international transfer window opened for the summer and find a European side to play for. So to keep himself available for a Bosman transfer rather than locking himself into a long term contract at lower pay, he decided to play for our PDL team until he could negotiate a contract he likes. Hopefully he will still be with us when you come but he could sign a deal at any day.
I actually believe that many of our PDL team members have more raw talent than our senior side, but just haven't been exposed to the professional environment long enough to refine that talent. Last year, our U23s played our senior side in an exhibition match that ended 1-0 to our senior side in a very close match.
Our supporters club would love to host any of you that travel to the USA to see Burnley play in North Carolina. If you're coming to the match, drop me a line at email@example.com and we'll plan to meet up before or after the match at a local pub. We can also probably help you out with some travel plans if necessary as one of our club members is a travel agent and we can get you some good hotel deals in the area through a rate we have negotiated for traveling supporters.
Other questions? Fire away. I'll try to check this thread every couple of days or feel free to use my email address above
Many thanks to Jarrett for providing this information. If you are lucky enough to be one of the Clarets going out there for the game, why not contact him and arrange to meet? If you have any more questions for him why not come into our Matchday Mayhem US forum?
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