The past 18 months have seen Chattanooga secure the mantle as the Soccer Capital of the Southeast with Finley Stadium at its epicenter.
The rousing success of Chattanooga Football Club (CFC) and its rabid and enthusiastic fan base have put the Scenic City firmly on the national football map.
Thousands and thousands of CFC supporters attend home matches at Finley during the spring and summer months, including a crowd of 18,227 for the 2015 National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) championship between CFC and New York Cosmos "B". It was the largest crowd to ever see an amateur match in the history of United States soccer.
Bouyed by CFC's success and the love for soccer in the area, Finley has also played host to teams from Mexico's La Liga MX, the English Premier League and the wildly-popular U.S. Women's National Team, who beat Costa Rica, 7-2, in an August 2015 friendly in front of 20,535 fans at a jammed-packed Finley Stadium.
And on Tuesday, CFC, Finley Stadium and the Chattanooga Sports Committee announced two more massive, unprecedented events to take place next month.
On Friday, Feb. 3, the U.S. Men’s National Team will make its first-ever appearance in Chattanooga as they will face Jamaica in a friendly at Finley. The match will kick off at 7 p.m. and tickets are available through U.S. Soccer at ussoccer.com.
"I am just delighted that U.S. Soccer recognizes the soccer culture and love of the game that Chattanooga Football Club has been able to build," said Paul Smith, Executive Director of Finley Stadium. "Finley Stadium’s partnership with CFC and the Chattanooga Sports Committee has really helped us begin to realize this venue’s potential."
Tim Morgan with the Chattanooga Sports Committee agreed.
"Chattanooga is a host destination, attractive to various types of National Governing Bodies," he said. "It is extremely exciting for our community to host the U.S. Men’s National Team and once again conduct business with US Soccer."
Tickets for the match will go one sale (at ussoccer.com) on Friday, Jan. 6 at 10 a.m.
Just eight days after the USMNT visits the Scenic City, Major League Soccer's newest franchise, Atlanta United, will arrive in town to play the hometown boys from CFC in Fort Finley. It will mark the first-ever match for Atlanta United, who will begin play in MLS later this year.
"Having Atlanta United here playing us in Finley Stadium rewards the passion our city and our fans have for soccer in the Scenic City," said Sean McDaniel, General Manager of Chattanooga FC. "This will be Atlanta United’s public debut, so we’re honored and excited to have them. They are a great organization and have been strong partners in this early collaboration.
"Atlanta has an equally passionate fan base and have sold over 23,000 season ticket already so we expect a big crowd from them. We also know our fans are equal to the task. (CFC) Coach (Bill) Elliott has put together a strong squad for us and we expect an entertaining and competitive match against this MLS club."
The match will be held Saturday, Feb. 11 at 3 p.m. and tickets are available now at ChattanoogaFC.com. Tickets will be $15 in advance and $20 on game day. The match will be included within all of the CFC season ticket packages and for 2017 Chattanooga FC Academy members who wear their blue jerseys to the game.
"This is another exciting moment for our club, as our preseason tour will start in Chattanooga, signifying our first-ever official match," Atlanta United President Darren Eales said. "We’re happy to begin our preseason in the southeast and are happy that our fans will have the opportunity to see us play at Finley Stadium in February."
Chattanooga FC veteran and fan favorite Luke Winter said he and his teammates were excited for the opportunity to take on the big boys from MLS.
"It'll be great," said the Norwich, England native. "In the past we've played pro sides and done really well. Playing an MLS team will be a big test and we're excited. You always want to test yourself. As a young child, I grew up wanting to be a professional and a lot of guys on our team want to be at that level. This a chance to test themselves against the guys that are already living that dream.
"Living here (in Chattanooga) year-round now, people are always asking me when the season starts. The fans are excited and the city should be excited that we're starting early this year."
Chattanooga FC Chairman and Finley Stadium Board Member Tim Kelly called the announcement of the matches "a great moment in Chattanooga sports history."
"We have a strong soccer culture here in the Scenic City, and it’s because of events like the (U.S.) Women’s game in 2015 and the impressive turnouts for Chattanooga FC games that allow us opportunities such as this," he added. "We couldn’t be happier."