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Sports in North Carolina facts for kids

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Athletes and sports teams from North Carolina compete at every level of competition in the United States including NASCAR Cup Series races, the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Football League (NFL), the National Hockey League (NHL), Major League Soccer (MLS), National Women's Soccer League (NWSL), leagues operated by the United Soccer League organization, and Major League Lacrosse (MLL), along with several colleges and universities in various conferences across an array of divisions. North Carolina also has many minor league baseball teams. There are also a number of indoor football, indoor soccer, minor league basketball, and minor league ice hockey teams throughout the state. For sport amateurs, the state holds the State Games of North Carolina each year.

Ice Hockey

RBC Center Stanley Cup Championship
Stanley Cup awards ceremony at the RBC Center

On June 19, 2006, the Carolina Hurricanes, a National Hockey League (NHL) franchise based in Raleigh, won the Stanley Cup. The Hurricanes, who call the PNC Arena home, are the first major professional sports team from North Carolina to win their sport's highest championship. The team moved from Hartford, Connecticut (as the Hartford Whalers) to the state in 1997 and played their games at the Greensboro Coliseum for their first 2 seasons in North Carolina before moving to their current home at the Entertainment and Sports Arena, later RBC Center and now PNC Arena, in Raleigh.

In 2010, the Albany River Rats, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Carolina Hurricanes, relocated to Charlotte and became the Charlotte Checkers, assuming the name from the former ECHL team that had played in the city since 1995. The Charlotte Checkers play their home games at Bojangles' Coliseum in uptown Charlotte.

Fayetteville also has an ice hockey team, the FireAntz of the Southern Professional Hockey League.

Winston-Salem, North Carolina will be the home of the returning Carolina Thunderbirds of the Federal Hockey League beginning in the 2017-2018 season.


North Carolina is a center in American motorsports, with more than 80% of NASCAR racing teams and related industries located in the Piedmont region. Stock car racing is the official sport of the state. The largest race track in North Carolina is Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord where the Cup Series holds three major races each year.

A new drag strip, called Zmax Dragway, has been built on the same grounds as the speedway. It is currently the only drag strip in the U.S. to hold 4-wide drag racing events (as opposed to the traditional 2-wide drag races held at other tracks). The NHRA holds one to two national events there each year. The NASCAR Hall of Fame, located in Charlotte, opened on May 11, 2010. Many of NASCAR's most famous driver dynasties, the Pettys, Earnhardts, Allisons, Jarretts and Waltrips all live within an hour of Charlotte. NASCAR has held events at other race tracks in the state; most notably in Rockingham and North Wilkesboro.

In off-road motorcycle racing, the Grand National Cross Country series makes three stops in North Carolina, Morganton, Wilkesboro and Yadkinville; the only other state to host two GNCC events is Ohio. For sport amateurs, the state holds the State Games of North Carolina each year.

North Carolina has a proud history in motorsports and claims to be the home to 80% of American racing teams, mostly from NASCAR. The NASCAR Hall of Fame is located in uptown Charlotte.


Richard Petty (Level Cross) and Dale Earnhardt (Kannapolis) were both born in North Carolina and are a great source of pride for Carolinians (both North and South) and Southerners in general. Both men won the Winston Cup a record 7-times.

Earnhardt's son, Dale Jr. (also Kannapolis) has become the face of NASCAR and is a sports hero in the Carolinas. Fellow current drivers Brian Vickers (Thomasville), and Scott Riggs (Durham) are also very popular with local fans.

Dale Sr. is the son of Ralph Earnhardt (now passed) and the father of Kerry Earnhardt (also both Kannapolis).

Petty's father Lee (passed) and son Kyle (both Randleman) are also very popular. Kyle's son Adam (High Point) was killed when his car crashed during a practice at New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire.

Lowe's Motor Speedway
Charlotte Motor Speedway at night

Outside of the Earnhardt and Petty clans North Carolina is home to many other NASCAR legends such as Junior Johnson (Wilkes County), Richard Childress (Winston-Salem), Ned and Dale Jarrett (both Newton), Andy Petree (Hickory), and Rick Hendrick (Warrenton).


Once a major part of the NASCAR circuit North Carolina now only has one track on the schedule, Charlotte. The 167,000-seat Charlotte track is arguably the heart and soul of NASCAR. The track, actually in Concord, hosts three Cup Series events every season, including the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race (formally The Winston). Charlotte also hosts NASCAR's longest and most grueling race, the Coca-Cola 600, every May. The winner of the race earns tremendous respect among peers and fans due to the distance (the longest on the circuit) and the weather (North Carolina is known for extremely humid and hot summers). During race weeks Concord is said to balloon from its normal population of just under 56,000 to over 300,000.

Tracks that formerly hosted Cup Series events include North Wilkesboro Speedway, Rockingham Speedway, and Metrolina Speedway.


There are no Major League Soccer teams in North Carolina. The state is home to one top-level professional team; the North Carolina Courage will begin play in the National Women's Soccer League in the 2017 season, having relocated from Rochester, New York. The Courage will play at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary.

North Carolina is also home to several lower-division professional teams. North Carolina FC (formerly the Carolina RailHawks) of the Division II North American Soccer League, whose owner also owns the Courage, plays at WakeMed Soccer Park along with the Courage.

North Carolina Tar Heels 2006 College Cup Champions
The Tar Heels with the 2006 Women's College Cup.

The Charlotte Independence play in the United Soccer League (USL). Asheville City SC play in the National Premier Soccer League. Additionally the Charlotte Eagles, the Carolina Dynamo of Greensboro, the Wilmington Hammerheads, and Tobacco Road FC of Durham play in the national Premier Development League (PDL). The Eagles played in the USL when it was called the USL Professional Division, but chose to relegate themselves to the PDL after the 2014 season, transferring their franchise rights to local interests that launched the Independence for the 2015 season. Charlotte and Greensboro both have women's teams in the USL W-League.

As with other sports, college soccer is important in North Carolina. The North Carolina Tar Heels have dominated women's college soccer on a national level, laying claim to the lion's share of all Division I national championships in the sport. The Heels have also been successful in men's soccer, winning national and conference champions. Duke and Wake Forest have also won national soccer championships. In 2011, UNC topped Charlotte in an all-North Carolina affair to claim the men's national championship.

On June 9, 2011 Charlotte hosted a group stage game during the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup.


Over the last two decades, North Carolina has become a rising power in the world of professional and amateur swimming. As with many other components of North Carolina's sport culture, this rise began on the college campuses of the Old North State. North Carolina State University, Duke University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill all field varsity swimming and diving teams at the Division I level. The men's program at NC State has enjoyed the most success, bringing home 25 Atlantic Coast Conference Championships, more than any other ACC team.

NC State's men have also boasted 75 All-Americans and 9 Olympians, including Cullen Jones, the first African-American world record holder in swimming and gold medalist at the 2008 Beijing Games in the men's 4 × 100 meter freestyle relay. The women's team has won two ACC Championships and sent one athlete to the Olympics. Recently, Wolfpack Diver Kristen Davies won the NCAA title in platform diving. The Wolfpack program did not perform as well as in the past during the 2000s; however, the arrival of new head coach Braden Holloway has made an immediate impact on the program. In two seasons, Holloway has guided the Pack back to top 25 national rankings and relevance in the ACC. The Tar Heels, meanwhile, have won several conference titles as well. The University of North Carolina at Wilmington has won several Colonial Athletic Association titles.

In 2008, former Auburn University head swim coach David Marsh arrived to take the helm of USA Swimming's first center of excellence at SwimMAC Carolina (formerly Mecklenburg Aquatic Club) in Charlotte. Under his guidance, SwimMAC has been named USA Swimming's club of the year and is widely regarded as one of the best programs in the country. In 2012, SwimMAC's "Team Elite", personally coached by Marsh, produced five Olympians: Nick Thoman, Micah Lawrence, Kara Lynn Joyce, Davis Tarwater, and Cullen Jones. Many other Team Elite members have made the US National team. Winston-Salem native Kathleen Baker won silver in the Women's 100 meter backstroke and gold in the Women's 4 × 100 meter medley relay at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The Greensboro Coliseum Complex is scheduled to open the 78,000 square-foot Greensboro Aquatic Center in August 2011, with seating for 2,500 people. The arena will host the 2012 U.S. Masters Swimming Spring National Championship.

Other sports

Carmichael Auditorium
Carmichael Arena; home of UNC women's basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, and men's wrestling

In recent years lacrosse has experienced a period of steady growth in North Carolina that has seen high schools in the three main metropolitan areas add the sport to their programs, this growth culminated in Charlotte being awarded a Major League Lacrosse expansion team named the Charlotte Hounds, the first professional outdoor lacrosse team in the South. An indoor lacrosse team, Charlotte Copperheads, played in the Professional Lacrosse League's only season in 2012. Duke and North Carolina field lacrosse teams for both sexes; both of the schools' men's teams have won national championships—North Carolina had been the westernmost school to win the men's national championship until Denver won the 2015 title—and the North Carolina women have also won national championships. The Tar Heels won both the men's and women's titles in 2016. Division I High Point and five schools in the Division II Conference Carolinas also play lacrosse.

Rugby union is seeing a major increase in popularity in North Carolina and the Southeastern United States, with the NCYRU's JV and Varsity all-star squads winning the regional southeast RAST (Rugby All Star Tournament) in 2014, with both teams undefeated in the tournament.

Softball is popular at the collegiate, scholastic, and recreational levels. North Carolina and NC State field women's gymnastics teams in the East Atlantic Gymnastics League, which both have each won four times. The state is home to nine NCAA Women's Field Hockey Championship titles with North Carolina winning six and Wake Forest winning three.

From the 1930s to the early 1990s, the Mid Atlantic Championship Wrestling professional wrestling promotion, under the Crockett family, operated almost entirely out of Charlotte. Mid Atlantic was a long-time member of the National Wrestling Alliance and many of their top stars appeared on national television on NWA and later WCW events. Many retired or still-current wrestlers live in the Charlotte/Lake Norman area, including Ric Flair, his daughter Ashley (who performs as Charlotte Flair), Ricky Steamboat, Matt and Jeff Hardy, Stan Lane, Shannon Moore and R-Truth. Also, the chairman of WWE, Vince McMahon, was born in Pinehurst, attended East Carolina University, and was married in New Bern.

North Carolina has become a hotbed for professional bull riding (PBR). It is home to several professional stock contractors and bull owners. The Southern Extreme Bull Riding Association SEBRA headquarters are located in Archdale.

Volleyball is a very popular sport at the recreational level and most colleges field women's teams while a few, notably schools in the Conference Carolinas, field men's teams.

Ultimate in North Carolina is increasingly popular with youth, collegiate, club, and professional teams all competitive at the national level.


The North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame was established in February 1963, with the support of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, "to honor those persons who by excellence of their activities in or connected with the world of sports have brought recognition and esteem to themselves and to the State of North Carolina." The Hall of Fame inducted its first five members in December of that year.

List of Division I schools

Institution Nickname Location Established Conference School type Undergraduate
Varsity sports
Appalachian State Mountaineers Boone 1899 Sun Belt Public (UNC) 13,447 18
Campbell Fighting Camels and Lady Camels Buies Creek 1887 Big South Private (Baptist) 2,843 19
Davidson Wildcats Davidson 1837 A-10 Private (Presbyterian) 1,700 21
Duke Blue Devils Durham 1838 ACC Private 6,244 26
East Carolina Pirates Greenville 1907 The American Public (UNC) 17,728 19
Elon Phoenix Elon 1889 CAA Private (United Church of Christ) 4,849 16
Gardner–Webb Runnin' Bulldogs Boiling Springs 1905 Big South Private (Baptist) ~4,000 19
High Point Panthers High Point 1924 Big South Private (Methodist) 2,699 14
North Carolina A&T Aggies Greensboro 1891 MEAC Public (UNC) 9,735 11
North Carolina Central Eagles Durham 1910 MEAC Public (UNC) 8,600 16
North Carolina State Wolfpack Raleigh 1887 ACC Public (UNC) 23,730 26
UNC Asheville Bulldogs Asheville 1927 Big South Public (UNC) 3,453 9
UNC Chapel Hill (North Carolina) Tar Heels Chapel Hill 1789 ACC Public (UNC) 16,764 28
UNC Charlotte (Charlotte) 49ers Charlotte 1946 C-USA Public (UNC) 16,584 12
UNC Greensboro Spartans Greensboro 1891 SoCon Public (UNC) 12,291 16
UNC Wilmington (UNCW) Seahawks Wilmington 1947 CAA Public (UNC) 10,581 19
Wake Forest Demon Deacons Winston-Salem 1834 ACC Private (Baptist) 4,231 18
Western Carolina Catamounts Cullowhee 1889 SoCon Public (UNC) 8,891 13


Team list

Sport Team League
Australian rules football North Carolina Tigers USAFL/EAFL
Baseball Asheville Tourists Minor League Baseball (A); South Atlantic League
Burlington Royals Minor League Baseball (R); Appalachian League
Buies Creek Astros Minor League Baseball (A); Carolina League
Carolina Mudcats Minor League Baseball (A); Carolina League
Charlotte Knights Minor League Baseball (AAA); International League
Down East Wood Ducks Minor League Baseball (A); Carolina League
Durham Bulls Minor League Baseball (AAA); International League
Greensboro Grasshoppers Minor League Baseball (A); South Atlantic League
Hickory Crawdads Minor League Baseball (A); South Atlantic League
Kannapolis Intimidators Minor League Baseball(A); South Atlantic League
Winston-Salem Dash Minor League Baseball (A); Carolina League
Edenton Steamers Wood-Bat Collegiate Summer League; Coastal Plain League
Fayetteville Swampdogs Wood-Bat Collegiate Summer League; Coastal Plain League
Morehead City Marlins Wood-Bat Collegiate Summer League; Coastal Plain League
Wilmington Sharks Wood-Bat Collegiate Summer League; Coastal Plain League
Wilson Tobs Wood-Bat Collegiate Summer League; Coastal Plain League
Asheboro Copperheads Wood-Bat Collegiate Summer League; Coastal Plain League
Forest City Owls Wood-Bat Collegiate Summer League; Coastal Plain League
Gastonia Grizzlies Wood-Bat Collegiate Summer League; Coastal Plain League
Thomasville Hi-Toms Wood-Bat Collegiate Summer League; Coastal Plain League
Basketball Charlotte Hornets National Basketball Association
Fayetteville Flight American Basketball Association
Raleigh Rough Riders Continental Basketball League
Gastonia Gamers World Basketball Association
Wilmington Sea Dawgs Tobacco Road Basketball League
Big Texas Tobacco Road Basketball League
Carolina Gladiators Tobacco Road Basketball League
Cary Invasion Tobacco Road Basketball League
Fayetteville Crossover Tobacco Road Basketball League
Greensboro Cobras Tobacco Road Basketball League
Johnston County Nighthawks Tobacco Road Basketball League
Queen City Express Tobacco Road Basketball League
Team HoopForLyfe Tobacco Road Basketball League
Blue Ridge Bison Tobacco Road Basketball League
Bull City Legacy Tobacco Road Basketball League
Football Carolina Panthers National Football League
Ice hockey Carolina Hurricanes National Hockey League
Charlotte Checkers Minor league hockey; ECHL(AHL team in 2011)
Fayetteville FireAntz Minor League Hockey; Southern Professional Hockey League
Lacrosse Charlotte Hounds Major League Lacrosse
Charlotte Copperheads North American Lacrosse League
Roller derby Carolina Rollergirls WFTDA
Rogue Rollergirls WFTDA Apprentice Program
Rugby union Asheville RFC
Cape Fear RFC
Charlotte Royals
Charlotte Rugby Club Rugby Super League
Eno River RFC
Gastonia RFC
Raleigh RFC
Triad RFC
Soccer North Carolina Courage National Women's Soccer League
North Carolina FC North American Soccer League
Charlotte Independence United Soccer League
Carolina Dynamo Premier Development League
Charlotte Eagles Premier Development League
Wilmington Hammerheads Premier Development League
Charlotte Lady Eagles W-League


See List of sports venues in North Carolina

8. Brisendine, Steve (12-07-2016) "Carolina Railhawks rebrand to North Carolina FC, set sights on MLS"

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