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The Chattahooligans cheer before Chattanooga Football Club's NPSL national championship match against the New York Cosmos B on Saturday at Finley Stadium.
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Chattanooga Football Club players and fans celebrate together in the stands after a victory during the playoffs last summer.
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Chattanooga Football Club midfielder Luis Trude, center, gets caught between the New York Cosmos B's Travis Pittman, right, and Daniel Evuy during Saturday's National Premier Soccer League title match at Finley Stadium. New York won 3-2 in overtime, dealing CFC its fourth runner-up finish in six seasons.
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The Chattanooga Football Club will host the National Premier Soccer League championship match against the New York Cosmos B team at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8, at Finley Stadium, 1826 Reggie White Blvd. Based on scoring in the regular season, the Cosmos and Chattanooga FC are seeded 1 and 2, respectively. As the higher-ranked team, the Cosmos had the right of refusal for home-field advantage, but the combination of having a world-class soccer facility and the strongest fan base in the NPSL gave Chattanooga the edge to host. This will be Chattanooga FC's fourth appearance in the national championship and the first to be played at home. Advance tickets are $10 and available online at www.chattanoogafc.com. Game-day tickets will be $12 at the gate. Children 5 and younger will be admitted free.

The Chattanooga Football Club, which was narrowly defeated in a national title match by the New York Cosmos B, has shown that it can pack thousands of fans into Finley stadium and ignite enough local interest in soccer that it was picked to host the national championship here in the Scenic City.

Now, the young soccer club has set its sights on launching foundation to support a trio of nonprofits, which will use the growing popularity of soccer to promote Chattanooga as a as a "global resource" for the sport. 

"We want Chattanooga to be recognized as a global resource for soccer," said Sean McDaniel, manager of CFC. "Programs being developed by the Foundation are designed to serve communities well beyond our city. We want to create a blueprint for other communities and continue paying it forward."

The CFC Foundation will serve as the umbrella group for three new nonprofits: Chattanooga Sports Ministries, Highland Park Commons and Operation Get Active. 

The move is an extension of the football club's inception in 2009 under the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga, officials said. 

"This is simply a move from there since we have grown to the point where we need to walk on our own two feet," said Krue Brock, chairman of the CFC Foundation. "Our focus has always been to use soccer to help develop Chattanooga." 

Chattanooga Sports Ministries provides opportunities for at-risk young to play soccer in neighborhood teams, helping to organize practices and matches. Hannah Griggs, who started working for the ministry in 2010 as a soccer coach for the Woodlawn Apartments in East Chattanooga, said that playing soccer helps offer kids an alternative to the violent lifestyles on display elsewhere. 

"Using a soccer ball as a tool to build relationships has been very effective," she said. "And if we can help our youth find community through a soccer team instead of a gang, we are doing a great job."

The second nonprofit, Highland Park Commons, consists of futsal (five-man soccer) courts in Highland Park. The nonprofit is in charge of promotions, reservations, fees and maintenance at the fields, which have "become a melting pot for the local soccer scene" with more than 25 nationalities represented, CFC said in a news release. 

"It has been a bridge between various cultures within broader Chattanooga," said David Vilches, manager of Highland Park Commons. 

Vilches hopes that Highland Park Commons will eventually host regional futsal tournaments and become "the most locally diverse soccer hub in Tennessee," according to a news release. 

The foundation's third nonprofit, Operation Get Active, will use soccer as a means to encourage children to be active and live healthy lifestyles from schools, rec centers and community spaces around the city. The nonprofit is currently in eight locations around the city.

The group conducts warm-up exercises, games, skill-based activities, and finally a short soccer match at its various locations, something that Englishmanb Peter Woolcock, director of Operation Get Active, says will take advantage of the growing interest in soccer. They hope to reach more than 1,000 children by 2016, according to a news release. 

"I truly believe that soccer is a universal language, and I love witnessing how a simply game can engage children in leadership, teamwork and communication," Woolcock said.

Chattanooga Football Club is a member team of the National Premier Soccer League, Southeast Region. It is affiliated with the U.S. Soccer Federation and FIFA, the world's governing body for soccer. 

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