Chattanooga Football Club's Bill Elliott sees genuine growth in soccer popularity

Chattanooga Football Club's Bill Elliott sees genuine growth in soccer popularity

July 2nd, 2014 by David Paschall in Sportsprofessional

Chattanooga Football Club coach Bill Elliott

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

Justin Whitaker, right, and Chase Varhol react while watching a screening of the USA vs. Belgium World Cup soccer match Tuesday at Miller Plaza.

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

Bill Elliott has coached the Chattanooga Football Club men's soccer team to a 7-2-2 record this season and a Southeast Division title in the National Premier Soccer League.

Tuesday afternoon, he was among the millions of Americans pulling for the United States in its World Cup match against Belgium. A couple of hours before it kicked off, he was a guest on "Press Row" on Chattanooga's ESPN 105.1 The Zone.

Elliott, incidentally, predicted a 2-1 win for the U.S.

Q: How do you watch a match like this? Do you like to be alone or with people, and do you find yourself critiquing the coaching?

A: "I typically prefer to watch U.S. matches alone so I can kind of concentrate, and I do find myself analyzing the game and critiquing. Today I'm going to venture out and watch it with a group of people. I went out to one of the local bars to watch the last match, and it was packed and kind of crazy and fun.

"I can always go back and watch it On Demand if I want to pick it apart."

Q: How would you assess the job Jurgen Klinsmann has done?

A: "I think he's done great. We were pretty much picked fourth out of four in our group but were able to advance, so I think he's done a really good job. You wish we didn't have that 1-0 loss to Germany, but at the end of the day it put you in a position to advance out of group play."

USA goalkeeper Tim Howard makes a save during the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Belgium and the USA at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Brazil on Tuesday.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

Q: Soccer fans tout that their game is growing in popularity, but detractors say it will never compare to football, basketball or baseball. Where do you fall in that debate?

A: "I had to go to three or four bars the other day before I could find one that would let me in. That right there tells me it's gaining as a spectator sport in popularity, and the Chattanooga Football Club has played before more than 3,000 fans at Finley Stadium multiple times this summer.

"Chattanooga is not known as a soccer city or a big soccer market like a Seattle or a Miami, so if we're doing that here, it shows that soccer is growing all over the country."

Q: How should people who have gotten into the World Cup translate their interest into MLS or the English Premier?

A: "You just have to find what interests you. We're going to have an MLS team soon in Atlanta, so perhaps a lot from this community can follow Atlanta in the MLS. You can watch so many games in the English Premier League now on TV, so it's easy to follow that league.

"We have a strong following for our CFC team, but it's really up to the individual. They just have to figure out what captures their imagination and go with it."

Q: If the U.S. doesn't win this World Cup, who would you like to win it and why?

A: "Brazil. I think it would be exciting to see the host country win it, especially one that is so enthusiastic about the game."

Q: What is your favorite movie involving soccer?

A: "I've got to reach way back in the archives and go with 'Victory.'"

Q: If you had been in charge of the recent punishment for Uruguay's Luis Suarez for biting, would you have imposed a yearlong ban?

A: "A lifetime ban."

Q: How many times around these parts do people confuse you or mention your namesake, the NASCAR driver?

A: "About every time I go somewhere that's sports-related or when I take my car to a mechanic."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.