BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Alex Morgan, Christine Sinclair, Marta and Sam Kerr have a few things in common. For starters, they’re well-known greats of women’s soccer who are competing in the 2023 Women’s World Cup, which began Thursday.
They’re also former members of the Western New York Flash, the professional women’s soccer franchise that played its home games in Rochester and practiced in Elma before relocating to North Carolina in 2017.
The Flash, which were owned by Sahlen Packing Company CEO Joe Sahlen, played in the semi-professional USL W-League from 2009-2010 for their first two years of existence before making the jump to the pro level in 2011, winning the Women’s Professional Soccer title that year.
After WPS folded later that year, the Flash claimed their lone National Women’s Soccer championship in 2016 with a roster headlined by United States forward Lynn Williams, who tallied 11 goals in the campaign. The franchise was then purchased and became the North Carolina Courage, which still plays in the league today.
A new, semi-professional Flash team played two seasons in United Women’s Soccer in 2017 and 2018 before being fully dissolved.
While the club may no longer exist, many former Flash players continue to play professionally both in the U.S. and abroad, and over a dozen are on rosters of nations competing in this year’s World Cup.
Here are the ex-Flash players competing on the world’s biggest stage. (If we missed any players or coaches, please email us at email@example.com.)
- Alex Morgan, F, United States (WNY Flash 2011): Since becoming the Flash’s first overall draft pick in 2011, Morgan has gone on to become one of U.S. Soccer’s most recognizable stars. The 34-year-old San Diego Wave captain was joint-top scorer in the 2019 World Cup alongside her American teammate Megan Rapinoe. Morgan is currently enjoying arguably the best form of her career and is expected to carry the load at center forward as the United States seeks its third consecutive World Cup title.
- Lynn Williams, F, United States (WNY Flash 2015-16): Despite a successful club career spent mostly in NWSL, a combination of coaching decisions and poor injury luck has delayed the 30-year-old’s World Cup debut to her ninth professional season this year. Williams endured a difficult rookie season with the Flash in 2015 before breaking out as the league’s highest scorer the following season. “I hated it,” Williams told the New York Post of her first year in WNY. “I was away from home, it was cold and we were losing. I questioned if I wanted to do this and if it was worth being away from my family only making $10,000 a year.”
- Christine Sinclair, F, Canada (WNY Flash 2011-12): One of a handful of global soccer icons who will be participating in her final World Cup, Sinclair has led Canada’s attack in the previous five World Cups since debuting at age 20 in 2003. While she has played for the Portland Thorns since 2013, Sinclair was the Flash’s leading scorer in 2011 and was named MVP of that season’s WPS championship game, spurring WNY to a title in the league’s final season.
- Adriana Leon, F, Canada (WNY Flash 2016): A veteran and projected starter for Canada, Leon has appeared in 96 international matches throughout her career. Leon played in 10 matches and started three during her year-long tenure with the Flash.
- Sabrina D’Angelo, GK, Canada (WNY Flash 2015-16): The 30-year-old goalkeeper has made four starts for Arsenal in England’s FA Women’s Super League in 2023 and is expected to start the tournament on the bench in support of Canada’s first-choice backstop Kailen Sheridan. D’Angelo’s three saves during a dramatic penalty shootout earned her MVP honors in the Flash’s 2016 NWSL Championship victory, a year before she and the Flash relocated to Cary, N.C.
- Alanna Kennedy, D, Australia (WNY Flash 2016): Now with English club Manchester City, Kennedy is a frequent starter for Australia at central defense and appeared in each of the Matildas’ World Cup matches in the 2015 and 2019 tournaments. Kennedy appeared in 15 games during the Flash’s title-winning 2016 season.
- Sam Kerr, F, Australia (WNY Flash 2013-14): The 29-year-old Chelsea FC great is the all-time leading scorer in the NWSL despite having left the league in 2019 and has won multiple single-season scoring titles in three different domestic leagues. Unfortunately for the superstar, Kerr picked up a calf injury in training just before the tournament and will miss at least Australia’s first two matches.
- Lydia Williams, GK, Australia (WNY Flash 2014): A member of Australia’s senior national team since 2007, Williams was a starting keeper in the previous three World Cups. The 35-year-old, currently with Brighton & Hove Albion in England, figures to play a backup role in her fifth World Cup callup.
- Marta, F, Brazil (WNY Flash 2011): Widely considered as one of the sport’s greatest and most influential players, the 37-year-old Orlando Pride legend will have her World Cup swan song at this year’s tournament. Marta helped lead the Flash to a regular season title and won the Women’s Professional Soccer Golden Boot in her only season with the team.
- Lady Andrade, F, Colombia (WNY Flash 2015-16): The 31-year-old who broke into the Columbian national team as a teenager in the 2011 World Cup is making her return to the event after her country failed to qualify in 2019. A reserve player during her two seasons with the Flash, she is currently rostered on Brazilian club Real Brasília FC, where she was co-leading scorer with three goals this season.
- Ali Riley, D, New Zealand (WNY Flash 2011): A member of the Flash for its first WPS season, the Angel City FC and New Zealand captain has been one of the Football Fern’s most important players of the past two decades. Her 2023 tournament is off to an historic start, as Riley captained her country to its first World Cup victory ever in a stunning upset over Norway before a home crowd of over 40,000 on Thursday.
- Halimatu Ayinde, M, Nigeria (WNY Flash 2015-16): This tournament will be the midfielder’s third World Cup with Nigeria, having made seven appearances for the Super Falcons over the previous two tournaments. Ayinde, who now plays for FC Rosengård in Sweden, contributed one goal in nine matches with the Flash.
- Caroline Seger, M, Sweden (WNY Flash 2011): Seger, Ayinde’s FC Rosengård teammate, saw her tenure as captain of the Flash was shortened to just 12 games due to the 2011 World Cup falling in the middle of her lone season with the squad. Aside from spells in Paris and Lyon, France, the majority of her club career has been spent in her native Sweden, where she is the national team’s most experienced player with 235 matches under her belt.
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Justin McMullen is a Western New York native who joined the News 4 team in 2023. You can read more of his work here.