The efforts of the Chattanooga Football Club organization and its Chattahooligans fans have placed the spotlight on Finley Stadium this evening.
Now it's up to the team to get the job done.
Chattanooga FC (17-2-1) will host the New York Cosmos B club at 7:30 p.m. with the National Premier Soccer League championship on the line. It will be CFC's fourth appearance in the national title match — after losses in the 2010, 2012 and 2014 finals — but it will be the first time the local team has played the final at home.
The club has averaged 7,690 fans in its two most recent home matches. That caught the attention of the league, which decided to hold the final in Chattanooga, although the Cosmos (14-0-1) were the higher seed and had the right to host.
* What: New York Cosmos B (14-0-1) vs. Chattanooga Football Club (17-2-1)
* When: Tonight at 7:30
* Where: Finley Stadium
* What's at stake: National Premier Soccer League championship
* Ticket price: $12
Finley Stadium Executive Director Paul Smith said earlier this week that, depending on how well the advance ticket sales went, there was a possibility the visitors' side would be opened for tonight's match. Those sales exceeded expectations — as of Friday afternoon, more than 9,000 tickets had been sold.
The ticket lines will open at 4 this afternoon for people who already have bought tickets or want to do so.
Now it's up to Chattanooga FC, which has scored 51 goals while allowing only 13 in 20 matches, to stop the prolific New York club that has scored 49 goals in 15 matches while giving up seven.
Ruben Bover, who was named Cosmos B's most valuable player in the regular season, was called up to the Cosmos' primary team, which plays in the North American Soccer League. Miguel Herlein leads the New York club with 16 goals.
Luke Winter and Chris Ochieng lead CFC with 12 goals each.
"I think we have a great group of hardworking young men that I've been fortunate enough to coach," Cosmos coach Alecko Eskandarian said. "To hear about what this environment could be, first and foremost, I have a great amount of respect for CFC and what they've been able to accomplish on and off the field.
"On the field, their record speaks for itself: reaching the final and fielding such a competitive side. But also with the community, with the tragedy and how the community has rallied around this team, it was a no-brainer that we come play here."
CFC general manager Sean McDaniel said Friday the match could serve as an opportunity for fans to continue to shine a positive light on the community after the July 16 attacks on two military centers that left six dead — including the shooter.
"We're so happy to have the partnership we have with Finley, so it's easy to be confident that [today] would go well," McDaniel said. "I think that [today] goes beyond soccer: It goes all the way into the community and the city, into the healing from what happened three weeks ago. It's a chance for everybody to unify and come together. We want to win the match, but people just want to be together."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.