The Chattanooga Football Club is 90 good minutes away from earning a trip to San Diego. Standing in the team's way is the Georgia Revolution, which will host the National Premier Soccer League Southeast Conference championship game tonight at the RYSA Soccer Complex in Conyers, Ga.
Chattanooga FC (6-1-3) advanced to the NPSL national title game in 2010 but failed to make the postseason last summer after blowing a late lead in the Southeast standings. First-year coach Bill Elliott said just winning the Western Division and playing the Revolution (7-2-1) in tonight's game is an accomplishment.
"I wasn't here a couple of years ago, but from what I've been told, the league is consistently better now," Elliott said. "I feel like we've already made it back, so to speak, to where they were before. Of course it would be fantastic to win and make that next round."
Not only will a win tonight send the victor on to San Diego -- the NPSL Championships, featuring the champions of the four conferences, are July 27-29 -- but it would also earn the winning team a spot in next year's U.S. Open Cup.
"Clearly both teams have a lot to play for," Elliott said.
The Southeast championship game was originally scheduled for Saturday, but the Revolution, who earned the right to host by finishing with a league-high 22 points, didn't have access to their field that night.
Because of the schedule conflict, Chattanooga FC offered to host the game and cover the Revolution's expenses along with giving them some of the gate money, CFC general manager Sean McDaniel said.
McDaniel said CFC was opposed to playing tonight because many of the team's players have full-time jobs, it would be harder for CFC's fans to attend the game and then there was the matter of Atlanta traffic on a Friday afternoon.
"Ultimately our options were to play the game at 8 in the morning Saturday or 8:30 [tonight]," McDaniel said. "We obviously didn't want to play early in the morning, so this is the situation and hopefully we can make the most of it."
CFC and the Revolution met on June 30 and ended with a 1-1 draw despite CFC playing with only 10 men, because of a red card, for most of the game. Chattanooga FC will have some confidence going into the game after going to Florida last weekend and rolling to a 4-1 win over Jacksonville United FC. CFC had to win or tie to edge the Knoxville Force for the Western Division title.