After four-year absence, CFC bringing back women's team

Pensacola FC's Keidi Ruth, right, tackles Chattanooga FC's Carlie Banks during their WPSL South Region semifinal match Friday night at Finley Stadium. Pensacola won 6-2.

As a self-proclaimed "girl dad," Jeremy Alumbaugh wanted to make sure that if the Chattanooga Football Club were to bring back a women's soccer team, it wasn't going to be done haphazardly.

The club had not had a team since 2018, when it won the Southeast Conference championship of the Women's Premier Soccer League. A number of previous members had joined the Chattanooga Lady Red Wolves the past couple of seasons, and the club's last head coach, Erin Ridley, has moved to California, where she serves as the Major League Soccer Academy coach of the San Jose Earthquakes.

So to bring CFC back, Alumbaugh was going to need help starting things from scratch. He helped put together a six-person (five-woman) advisory board to get feedback on the direction the Chattanooga community wanted to see things go. Collectively, they made the return of CFC's women's team possible.

"Having Jeremy want to do this right is amazing. Anything that's worth doing is worth doing right," CFC advisory board member Kelly Faucett said Monday. "Knowing that the support from up top has that same mentality is everything."

Alumbaugh's daughter Sidney is a junior at Grace Academy, where she has made all-district and all-district tournament during her career. That's what's fueled his love and desire for women's sports.

"It's important to me, but it's so important to look at this turnout on a Monday night," he said after speaking to a gathering at the Moxy in downtown Chattanooga, promoting the team's return. "It matters because I do believe kids need role models and need to be able to go watch a game on a Saturday night and see somebody that looks like them, that maybe has gone through some of the things that they're going through now.

"They need those opportunities - the women's game is strong in the (United) States. That's one of the reasons why (CFC partner) Wolfsburg is doing the partnership with us; this is going to be an opportunity for them to have a little bit of a stake in the game in the U.S. from a player identification standpoint, and recruitment and some of those things."

The club is one of over 20 expansion clubs joining the WPSL in 2022, bringing the league's total to more than 125 members. Travel won't be bad, as Southeast Conference holdovers Alabama FC, Memphis Lobos, Nashville Rhythm and North Alabama SC still remain. The Lady Red Wolves and Southern Soccer Academy have moved up to the newly-formed USL W-League, which begins play this year.

There is still plenty for the new club to figure out. The biggest revelation Monday was the unveiling of the team's logo. The organization is being deliberate in finding a coach, and the roster construction really hasn't started yet. But Monday was about a celebration. A celebration of women (and soccer).

"We wanted the women to have their own identity," Alumbaugh told the gathering. "How can they develop their own culture within our club, and we are a very visual brand. We're very proud of our brand; we're very protective of our brand. We've worked very hard to build this brand and as I started out by talking tonight, we want to build it into a true global brand, so it's taking some time. It took some debate, but we're really excited about where we finished up."

Contact Gene Henley at Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3.