published Monday, April 16th, 2012

Chattanooga Football Club wants 5,000 at season opener

The Chattanooga Football Club is thinking big. When the soccer team starts its fourth season on May 5 against the Knoxville Force, CFC officials want at least 5,000 people in the stands at Finley Stadium.

On the fifth day of the fifth month — Cinco de Mayo — why not go after 5,000 fans?

“We’re trying to tell everybody we know that it’s soccer time and we want a really big crowd,” CFC board member Krue Brock said. “There’s a tournament in town that weekend, Volkswagen is going to encourage the people at the plant to come to the game and with Cinco de Mayo, it just seemed like, ‘let’s go for it.’”

The largest crowd to see a CFC game was 6,317, when the club opened the 2010 season against the Under-23 team from Fútbol Club Atlas of Guadalajara, Mexico.

New coach Bill Elliott, the men’s soccer coach at the University of West Florida, has mostly been monitoring the club’s progress from afar and will join the club soon. In his absence, assistant coach Jimmy Weekley running practice.

General manager Sean McDaniel and board member Tim Kelly said they have been impressed with what they’ve seen thus far, even without many of CFC’s college players, who have yet to join the team.

“It’s a little bit of a transition year with a new coach, but we’re very, very cautiously optimistic about him and about the team,” Kelly said. “We don’t want to jinx ourselves but what we see, and Sean will tell you the same thing, we like a lot.”

For fans wanting a first look at this season’s CFC squad, the club will play a scrimmage at Finley on April 28, against the Nashville Metros of the United Soccer Leagues’ Premier Development League.

Fans will notice something different at the stadium once the season starts — free parking. In the past parking was $5, the same price as a ticket, but this season CFC will have sponsored parking.

“I think fans thought it was weird that parking cost as much as a ticket to get in and I think for whatever reason Chattanoogans are hypersensitive to parking for parking, anyway,” Kelly said. “We heard from our fans over and over again that this was something that rubbed them the wrong way, so anything we could do to make it easier for people to come to the games we’re going to try to do.”

When CFC announced its schedule earlier this year, it was comprised entirely of National Premier Soccer League Southeast Division games. The club has added an exhibition at Finley on June 16 against the D.C. United Under-23 squad.

CFC is trying to schedule an international friendly, similar to previous games against F.C. Atlas and Club de Futbol Monterrey, but nothing has been finalized, Brock said.

One thing that was recently set was the new CFC Academy managing board. Brock will serve as president and the nine other members are from the local soccer community, including representatives from the East Ridge Soccer Association, Redoubt Soccer Association, Premier Soccer Academy and several others.

“If we’re going to encourage soccer in the region, we need to demonstrate that from the get-go,” Brock said. “I think the board reflects that.”

Information on the academy will be available at the season opener. Brock said tryouts will likely be held in June.

about John Frierson...

John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...

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