Two teams from the Mexican Primera Division, the top level of soccer in Mexico, are coming to Chattanooga. Club America and CF Pachuca will play an exhibition at Finley Stadium on July 7.
These aren't under-23 teams of Primera clubs like those that have visited in recent years to play the Chattanooga Football Club. The teams coming to Finley in July will be the big boys, and likely the two best teams ever to play in Chattanooga -- topping the Major League Soccer preseason game last year between the Columbus Crew and New England Revolution.
"This is a really big deal," Chattanooga FC general manager Sean McDaniel said. "I think it rivals when the U.S. women's national team was here 15 years ago. Teams of this magnitude coming to Chattanooga to play is a big soccer deal, and it's a big deal for Chattanooga."
A crowd of more than 13,000 filed into Finley in November 1997 to see Sweden face the U.S. women, who were at the height of their popularity with such players as Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain. Nobody knows if Club America and Pachuca can draw that kind of crowd, but more than 6,300 fans did show up to see CFC play the U-23 squad from F.C. Atlas of Guadalajara, Mexico, in May 2010.
U.S. national team member Jose Torres plays for Pachuca, which fell 3-1 to Club America on Wednesday in the first leg of the Primera playoff quarterfinals.
The game is being brought to Chattanooga by Soccer World, a Hermitage, Tenn., retailer that sometimes brings games to Tennessee. McDaniel said Chattanooga FC will help with fundraising and with game-day operations.
Chattanooga FC begins its fourth season Saturday night against the Knoxville Force at Finley. Since the club's debut in 2009, Finley has been the site of numerous notable matches, from international friendlies to an MLS preseason game to the U.S. Open Cup qualifier won by CFC last May.
Five years ago, bringing teams such as Club America and Pachuca to Chattanooga would have been highly unlikely. Now, "I don't think it's shocking at all," McDaniel said.
"This is what we've been trying to do with Finley Stadium over the last four years," he said.
Formed nearly a century ago, Mexico City-based Club America is one of that country's most storied franchises and might be best known for its stadium, Estadio Azteca, which seats more than 100,000. Promoted to Mexico's top flight in 1998, Pachuca has been the most successful Mexican club this millennium, winning five Primera titles and four CONCACAF Champions' Cups.
Tickets go on sale later this month at Ticketmaster locations, including Walmart.