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Chattanooga Football Club's Jon Finlay (12) slide tackles Memphis' Andrew Forrest (28) as he goes after the ball during CFC's game against Memphis Wednesday, June 28, 2017, at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga, Tenn.

It would appear Chattanooga Football Club is following the script created by this evening's opponent, new Major League Soccer franchise Nashville Soccer Club.

CFC thinks it's quite the opposite, though.

Although the Nashville club has made the jump into professional soccer much faster, the Chattanooga brand has become a far more well-known entity in the past 10 years. Despite being an amateur organization (for now), CFC has entertained both the United States men's and women's national teams in Finley Stadium and drew a crowd of 18,227 for a National Premier Soccer League final in 2015 — a U.S. amateur soccer attendance record that was followed twice in 2016 by games with more than 10,000 spectators.

Like Chattanooga FC, Nashville started as an NPSL club. It was awarded an MLS franchise three months ago and will compete as a Division II-level organization until its new stadium is built.

"What Nashville did was incredible," CFC general manager Sean McDaniel said. "They were a dark horse when MLS put an application out for newest cities to have an opportunity to bid for a franchise, but they were able to get a commitment to build a new stadium, and that's what put them over the top. And they did it without much issue from fans, from taxpayers and from the city of Nashville."

CFC board members have made it known they are looking to step into the professional ranks and are working toward this being the club's last season as an amateur organization. A jump into the newly formed National Independent Soccer Association in 2019 still is a possibility.

That would allow the team to play as many as 18 home matches, which could mean considerably more revenue. CFC would not have to rely on deep playoff runs to help its "bottom line," which was great when it totaled 31 home matches in 2015 and 2016 — 10 in the postseason alone, as a top seed — but not so much when it had 12 "Fort Finley" contests last season. And those included nonleague matches against professional teams such as Chivas U-23, which as with Nashville SC cost.

But when asked if his organization was following the blueprint of Nashville, McDaniel balked at the idea.

"They're following our blueprint," he said. "We were here first and we're glad to be the leader in all things soccer. We had national teams here before anybody else did. We hosted them when we were in the same league. We're flattered and honored they've aligned themselves with us still, and the fact they're coming down here shows a level of gratitude that we appreciate.

"I think Chattanooga is really the blueprint, and we're happy to expose and share it with others."

It's the second 2018 preseason friendly for CFC, which battled FC Dallas to a 1-1 tie on Feb. 3. The roster has been revamped with a number of new players. Some of those played in the FC Dallas match, while some other players couldn't make it today, which opened the door for more new trial players.

The club has had two practices in preparation for today's match — training sessions on Thursday and Friday. But while CFC has been trying to learn its new personnel, coach Bill Elliott expects Nashville to be more season-ready than Dallas was in early February. Nashville plays its first official match at Louisville (Ky.) City next Saturday.

"We can only worry about ourselves, not them," Elliott said. "Going into the Dallas match, there was no thought of worrying about what Dallas brought to the table. It was, 'Can we get ourselves organized enough to compete on that day?'

"It's quite a challenge to get organized from a coaching perspective. You want to be meticulous, but your hands are tied. You try to get the message across in a day and a half and it's not easy to do, but I hope they make the most out of it."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.

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