But amid the prime rib and creamed spinach, there were morsels of actual business spoon-fed from the dais. Joining Carolina President Curt Johnson and Head Coach Colin Clarke were two former RailHawks and current Whitecaps, Brad Knighton and the always-affable Matt Watson. Vancouver faces the Chicago Fire in another friendly Saturday evening in Charleston, S.C. So, the Whitecaps will again send a split squad to face the RailHawks, as was the case last year.
Johnson officially announced the upcoming March 20 international friendly between the RailHawks and UNAM Pumas at WakeMed Soccer Park. He also revealed a new Adidas blue RailHawks kit that will be worn during Sunday’s friendly.
Perhaps the most significant news item was that the Capital Area Soccer League (CASL) boys’ developmental academy and girls’ ECNL teams will partner with the RailHawks to form the new Capital Area RailHawks Academy, which will be sanctioned under the U.S. Development Academy Program, the top tier of youth soccer in the United States. There are only approximately 80 USSF-sanctioned USSDA clubs in the U.S. and Canada, and the Capital Area RailHawks Academy—which will begin play this August—would be the only USSDA operating under the umbrella of a NASL franchise. According to Johnson, more details on this arrangement will be revealed in a press release next week.
Among other news and notes learned at today’s luncheon:
• Nick Zimmerman, the RailHawks’ Most Valuable Player last season, is in Florida on trial with Sporting KC. Zimmerman completed a trial with Montreal last month without signing with the Impact. It is currently unknown whether the Sporting KC intends to sign Zimmerman, which would presumably involve providing some compensation to the RailHawks, who have Zimmerman under contract.
• In addition to three new signings announced yesterday, Clarke revealed that the RailHawks have inked midfielder Kevin Burns. Burns was a member of the Columbus Crew from 2008-11, and he was trialing at Blokhus FC in Denmark early last year when he suffered a knee injury that kept him out of action during 2012.
• Nigel Reo-Coker is expected to travel to Cary for Sunday’s friendly and could see his first action since signing with the Whitecaps this week. The 28-year-old Reo-Coker is an English Premier League veteran as a member of West Ham United from 2004-2007, Aston Villa from 2007-2011, and Bolton Wanderers during the 2011-12 season.
Kick off of Sunday’s friendly against the Whitecaps is 1:30 p.m. at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary.
Correction: The original version of this article said the Minnesota Thunder Academy is affiliated with Minnesota Stars FC; it is not.