In the spring of 2009, the Chattanooga Football Club began its first season. Tonight it starts its third.
Chattanooga FC has come a long way since that first season, when nearly every task seemed foreign and monumental. Now team officials and board members are starting to feel like veterans at running a soccer club, general manager Sean McDaniel said.
"This has grown well beyond what we ever had expected or anticipated, and all of us almost feel an obligation to making this happen now," McDaniel said. "We can't go back now. We've come so far and we want to make it just a little better than the season before."
Board member Tim Kelly said it was nice to not have to "reinvent the wheel" every week like they did in the beginning.
Season three begins at Finley Stadium tonight against Jacksonville (Fla.) United, one of the new members of the National Premier Soccer League Southeast Division. The other new teams are the Knoxville Force, Georgia Revolution and Atlanta Silverbacks Reserves.
Jacksonville is new to the NPSL but has been playing for many years.
Chattanoga FC. won the division last season and advanced to the championship game at the NPSL Final Four, losing 3-1 to the Sacramento Gold.
Manager Brian Crossman said after last week's exhibition win over the Dalton Allstars that the full team wouldn't be available tonight because some players were still finishing school.
Since its creation, CFC has raised soccer's status in Chattanooga and beyond. International friendlies and Major League Soccer preseason games have come to Finley Stadium, with more likely to follow, and CFC is playing exhibitions against developmental squads from prominent teams.
Later this season, CFC will host exhibitions against D.C. United's under-23 team and the U-20 squad of Mexican team Club de Futbol Monterrey.
"Our reputation is starting to precede us," McDaniel said, "and we've got teams contacting us and asking if they can come play us."