published Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Chattanooga Football Club playing NPSL final in New Jersey

Chattanooga Football Club tile
Chattanooga Football Club tile
Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

They swung for the fences but didn't complete the home run.

Chattanooga Football Club officials put together an impressive package to host the National Premier Soccer League final against the New York Red Bulls' U-23 team, but it wasn't enough. The game will be played Saturday night as part of a doubleheader at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.

The championship match is scheduled to begin about 9:30 Saturday, after the Red Bulls' Major League Soccer club faces the New England Revolution at 7.

The Red Bulls (16-0-0) had the right to host due to their higher ranking in the PUMA Power Rankings, per NPSL bylaws. The New York club is No. 1; Chattanooga FC (15-2-2) is No. 2 and will be playing on the road for the first time in 10 matches.

"We offered a financial benefit -- both to the league and the Red Bulls," CFC general manager Sean McDaniel said. "There was the intent that if the Red Bulls didn't want to host, that we could offer enough incentive to take it from them, but they politely declined because the benefit in return is their ability to host a final in a MLS stadium, which is still a great venue and a showcase venue."

McDaniel said there was talk of offsetting the Red Bulls' travel expenses as well as the potential to share part of the gate receipts. A local television affiliate also had mentioned the possibility of broadcasting the match, but CFC wasn't able to get that far in the discussions.

McDaniel said the official announcement was no surprise.

"I think to say appropriately, we're disappointed the NPSL championship will not be held in Chattanooga," he said. "We've proven clearly that we have the fan support to have a match of this caliber, and we're disappointed for the fans."

Chattanooga drew attention nationally with 8,878 fans for its 4-1 national semifinal victory against the Sacramento Gold, and the thought was that attendance could have reached 10,000 at Finley Stadium for the final.

The Red Bulls' U-23 team presents a different type of opponent for CFC, because it is a built-in feeder system for the MLS club. Players on the reserve team can be promoted to the professional roster at any time.

"Having a chance to play in an MLS stadium following an MLS match is a good consolation prize," CFC coach Bill Elliott said. "On one hand, we look forward to playing for the championship, but it's almost anticlimactic because of the momentum Chattanooga has built up."

The CFC organization is looking into the possibility of trying to set up a travel package for fans who are interested in busing to the match.

"It's being strongly discussed, but it's still in the developmental stages," McDaniel said.

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.

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