The Chattanooga Football Club announced Friday that it will be hosting its first match in the U.S. Open Cup soccer tournament on May 14.
Chattanooga FC will welcome the Wilmington (N.C.) Hammerheads, who play in the United Soccer League Professional Division, in a 7:30 p.m. match at Finley Stadium. That also will be CFC's home opener.
The Hammerheads are 1-0-1 in their season and will have played four matches before CFCs first one, which is set for May 10 at the Georgia Revolution.
"It's one of the things we've been dreaming of and hoping for since our inception," CFC general manager Sean McDaniel said. "The U.S. Open Cup is such a big deal, and to finally land a home match against a quality professional club is a culmination of a lot of hard work, but mainly a benefit to the fans that got us to where we are, so to speak.
"It's a big deal."
Eleven teams in the National Premier Soccer League earned automatic bids to the Cup, which is a huge spike from six or seven years ago when CFC got involved with the league. There were no automatic bids then, which suggests that the respect for the NPSL has grown tremendously in a short amount of time.
With a win over the Hammerheads, CFC will play again the following Wednesday. McDaniel said his club hopes to host that match as well and has put in a bid for it.
"If we host well -- which I know we will -- and have any level of success, that solidifies our position on a national stage rather than a state or regional one," he said.
CFC has assembled its greatest collection of talent since its inception, McDaniel said, with an added emphasis on depth this year. The organization hopes the veteran leadership will ensure that there are no dropoffs at any point. The club also hopes that leadership and depth will make it competitive in the Open Cup.
"The scoreboard is going to be important, because the way we're going to be graded is whether we won or lost the match, but I think a victory in the match is really what U.S. soccer will hopefully see -- not just from us, but from other NPSL teams," McDaniel said. "We have such a tremendous fan base, and U.S. soccer has finally realized how strong the following is here in Chattanooga, and they need a good stage and want a good stage to promote the Open Cup, so to be able to showcase Chatt as one of the marquee venues could be important."
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.