Hammerheads returning to Wilmington for 2011 - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Hammerheads returning to Wilmington for 2011

A 2009 team practice behind Legion Stadium A 2009 team practice behind Legion Stadium
Team mascot Sledge Team mascot Sledge

Posted by Bob Bonner - email

The goal has been achieved.

The Hammerheads are returning to Wilmington.

According to two league sources the team will return for the 2011 season which will be played at Legion Stadium.

An official announcement is scheduled for a later date.

Sources would not comment on who would assume the day-to-day operations of the franchise. When contacted former co-owner Bill Rudisill would not comment. Former head coach David Irving also declined to discuss the return of the franchise.

The organization will keep the name Hammerheads and there is no indication there would be any changes to the logo or color scheme.

The move marks the return of a franchise that was stripped of rights by the United Soccer League in October of 2009 when Chuck Sullivan was team owner.

The Hammerheads will join the USL Pro League which will combine teams from the USL First and Second divisions for play in 2011. The USL PRO will consist of as many as four geographic regions in 2011. Teams scheduled to compete in USL PRO in 2011 will be announced in the coming weeks.

Wilmington's affiliation with the United Soccer League began in 1996 with the team's first owner Al Pastore who helped groom the team to be one of the more successful in league history.

In 1995, Pastore was a man with a goal - he hand picked Wilmington for the new franchise which made it to the league semi-finals their its first year of existence.

Pastore's battle with Parkinson's Disease led him to sell the team to a group of local owners, Dr. Dale Boyd, Bruce Cavenaugh, Bill Rudisill, and Dave Schroeder who led the franchise to the National Title in 2003. They would later pass the torch to Chuck Sullivan, who lost the team at the conclusion of the 2009 season.

"I hope someone would be able to step forward and revive it," said Pastore.

The return of the USL to Wilmington is something that the league had hoped would happen sooner rather than later.

"Wilmington has been a fantastic market for us, and one that we would certainly like to remain in business with," Former USL Senior Director of Franchise Development Matt Weibe said in an October 2009 interview.

"The team has a great history dating all the way back to its first owner in Al Pastore. Depending on what happens with possible new ownership the franchise could be back for 2010 or 2011 season. We'll just have to wait and see what happens."

Since losing the franchise in 2009 at least one other ownership group has made an attempt at bringing soccer back to Wilmington.

Chicago area businessman John Berman was able to secure local investors, but was not comfortable with the viability of the USL going forward as a league.

Despite the turmoil of the 2009 season the Hammerheads finished as regular season champions with a 12-5-3 overall record. David Irving was named the Coach of the Year while Jamie Watson earned Player of the year honors.

Irving still resides in Wilmington.

"I always thought the Hammerheads were a valuable part of the community," said Irving in October of 2009. "Hopefully we can find a group that's willing to keep professional soccer in Wilmington."

Year, League, Reg. Season, Season Playoffs

1996, USISL Pro League 3rd, South Atlantic Semifinals

1997, USISL D-3 Pro League 5th, South Atlantic Did not qualify

1998, USISL D-3 Pro League 6th, Atlantic Division Semifinals

1999, USL D-3 Pro League 2nd, Atlantic Conference Finals

2000, USL D-3 Pro League 2nd, Southern Conference Quarterfinals

2001, USL D-3 Pro League 1st, Southern Conference Finals

2002, USL D-3 Pro League 1st, Southern Final

2003, USL Pro Select League 2nd, Southern Champion

2004, USL Pro Soccer League 2nd, Southern Quarterfinals

2005, USL Second Division 4th Semifinals

2006, USL Second Division 8th Did not qualify

2007, USL Second Division 7th Did not qualify

2008, USL Second Division 7th Did not qualify

2009, USL Second Division 1st Playoff Semifinals

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