Two Chattanooga Football Club board members resign

What do CFC changes mean for area soccer scene?

Chattanooga Football Club insignia
photo Sean McDaniel, pictured, resigned as the Chattanooga Football Club's general manager on Friday, when CFC board member Bill Nuttall also stepped down. Their exits and the news that an investor from Utah has purchased the rights to the Chattanooga area in the United Soccer League's Division III could signal a second soccer team is coming to town.

Chattanooga Football Club general manager Sean McDaniel and board member Bill Nuttall have resigned from the organization.

In addition, it was announced Friday that an investor from Utah has purchased the rights to the Chattanooga area in the United Soccer League's Division III, which could bring a second team to the Scenic City.

McDaniel was a co-founder of CFC and has been with the club for all 10 seasons. Under his leadership, the men's team has won seven Southeast Conference championships in the National Premier Soccer League's South Region and has been to four NPSL finals, losing in each case. In 2015, CFC won the prestigious Hank Steinbrecher Cup trophy, which is awarded to the winner of the United States Adult Soccer Association's amateur national championship.

Nuttall, who just finished his fourth season, was instrumental in helping bring the U.S. women's national soccer team to Finley Stadium in August 2015.

On Friday, multiple sources told the Times Free Press that McDaniel and Nuttall could "have a role" in the potential new club.

In a November 2017 interview with SoccerAmerica, Nuttall - the former general manager of US Soccer - talked about CFC's desire to move up in the competitive ranks.

"Chattanooga Football Club is definitely interested in pursuing Division III status for 2019," he said. "We're on the record with that. DIII either goes USL (United Soccer League) or NISA (National Independent Soccer Association), if NISA survives. There would be two Division IIIs, and then it's a matter of getting sanctioned and all of that.

photo Chattanooga FC general manager Sean McDaniel, right, and coach Bill Elliott pose for a portrait at Finley Stadium, nicknamed "Fort Finley" by the Chattahooligans, on Thursday, March 8, 2018, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

"So I'm not outside of the fray. We're a little bit into the fray because we're being courted by both entities. We've got this [next] season (2018) to see how it shakes out and make some decisions in August or September, because we'll have to have the initial funding."

CFC was accepted to the NISA in fall 2017 with the vision of 2019 being its first year in the newly formed league, but the league appears to have bottomed out, with CFC pulling out of consideration in March.

Now it seems a second club in Chattanooga could make an immediate jump into the professional ranks, while CFC has decided to hold steady in the NPSL.

The USL currently has 33 teams from across the country, with nine more set to join in the next three seasons. The 2018 regular season started in late March and isn't expected to end until mid-October.

"We have had discussions in the past, and we feel it doesn't reflect our values so we consciously chose to not put in a USL DIII team," CFC chairman Tim Kelly said Friday. "We've been working with the NPSL to grow the league into a longer season. Today's announcement came as a surprise to us, but our board and our staff are fine. We're in great shape; we're not going anywhere.

"We're here for the community, the fans and the city of Chattanooga. Our plans aren't changing."

Kelly said the USL has a "history of failed teams."

"It's not a sustainable business model, we don't feel," he said. "We're not going to (make a move like that) just to say we're a pro team."

CFC has worked with the NPSL to help grow the league, in part attempting to make seasons longer and potentially grow it into a professional league in the future. The league had 98 teams competing during the 2018 season.

In a statement late Friday evening, the league announced McDaniel has resigned from the executive board of the NPSL, which reiterated its "unwavering commitment to Chattanooga FC along with its supports, the city and the entire region."

"Chattanooga FC, a flagship organization in the NPSL since 2009, broke the attendance record for U.S. Amateur soccer with a crowd of 18,227 at the 2015 NPSL national championship," the NPSL said. "This is a community-centric organization that is the envy of soccer clubs around the country and one that should serve as a model for clubs today and in the future."

Contact Gene Henley at Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3.