Longtime local team joins the Women’s Premier Soccer League under first female head coach

Soccer will soon be on everyone’s lips. With the FIFA Women’s World Cup June 7 through July 7 in France, the United States Women’s National Team seeks their fourth title, and defense of their 2015 crown. Not everyone will travel to France for the festivities, and there will be festivities. Yet, there is a local club that has been paving the pathway for female athletes in Charlotte for nearly two decades.

Meet the Charlotte Lady Eagles

The team emerged in 2000, playing their first two seasons in the W-League at the W-2 level, experiencing success at both levels. They won the W-2 2001 championship, as well as numerous conference and divisional titles until the league folded in 2015. Longtime Charlotte Latin coach Lee Horton served as the Lady Eagles head coach from 2000-15. Mitch Sanford replaced him from 2015-18. Sam Hope, who played college ball for the Charlotte 49ers, took charge during the offseason. She is the team’s first female head coach, and served as an assistant under Sanford. Hope also played for the team team during the W-League era, making her the first player turned head coach for the organization.

Charlotte Lady Eagles head coach and former Charlotte 49er Sam Hope celebrating the 49ers’ 25th anniversary last fall

Under Sanford

The team played in an academy format. Rather than join a league, they played a series of exhibition games from May through July. Their system is designed to develop collegiate players during the summer, as players and people. The Eagles consider themselves a faith-based organization on all fronts. Their men’s and women’s teams have taken multiple mission trips to various countries. Last season, the Lady Eagles went to Colombia.

Under Hope

While the team intends to travel abroad again this summer, they have also joined the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL). They raised $6,025 on Giving Tuesday to join the league.

Important Dates

Their regular season runs May 25 through June 29, with a total of eight games. They are one of four WPSL teams in the Charlotte area, along with the Carolina Rapids, Lake Norman Soccer Club Eclipse and Discoveries SC. The league’s purpose is to develop amateur female athletes, whether those players are post-collegiate, international, collegiate, or standout prep players. However, the Lady Eagles typically have a stronger presence of collegiate players than others.

Why this matters

Women’s soccer rarely gets the attention it deserves, but that argument can be made for almost all female endeavors. However, eyes and ears follow the United States Women’s National Team once every four years like a puppy in pursuit of a toy. The team’s recent class action lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation for unequal working conditions compared to their male counterparts continues to beg the question, if one produces a higher level of success, why do they receive less pay? This question is not restricted to female professional athletes. It is seen time and time again across Charlotte in various fields.

Local Connection

Mckenna Woodhead’s jet skiing accident over the summer left her paralyzed, subsequently ending her soccer aspirations at the age of 14 year. The York County native and former Carolina Rapids ECNL player continues to receive tremendous support from the community. A gofundme established to help with medical bills raised $86,887. They voted her 2019 USWNT She Believes Hero. She traveled to Nashville for the USWNT game versus England on March 2, where she met some of her favorite players, including midfielder Tobin Heath.

In the eight months since her life-altering injury, Mckenna’s journey continues to inspire countless people.

Mckenna Woodhead meets USWNT idol, Tobin Heath

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