Lower-division fight heats up in Chattanooga

It looks like Chattanooga is ground zero in the lower-division pro soccer battle.

On Friday, Chattanooga FC, which averaged more than 3,000 a game in 2018, announced that Sean McDaniel, one of the club's founding members, resigned as its general manager. It went to add that an investor from Utah has purchased the USL D3 rights to the Chattanooga area.

The news comes as Chattanooga FC seeks to finalize plans to expand its operation from a 14-game season. In March, it hosted a soccer summit for meetings and discussions regarding the issues faced by lower-division teams. And Chattanooga FC chairman Tim Kelly has been vocal about the strength of small markets like Chattanooga, which has hosted both men's and women's national team games in the last three years, quite an accomplishment for a city of only 177,000.

Which is why it is so attractive to the USL.

It has plans to get a third-division league off the ground in 2019. To date, it has announced plans for five teams:

South Georgia Tormenta FC
FC Tucson
Greenville Pro Soccer
Madison Pro Soccer
Toronto FC II

At the end of June, the USL released a statement that "multiple teams, including one based in the Southeast, are set to join them in the month of July," though the only announcement since then was that Toronto FC II will move down from the second-division USL in 2019. (MLS second teams are expected to stock USL D3.)

Chattanooga FC pulled out of consideration for the NISA, which was seeking to form as a third division league, and is now exploring the idea of expanding and professionalizing its NPSL commitment.

Nuttall out. On Friday night, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported that board member Bill Nuttall, the former U.S. men's national team general manager, also resigned from Chattanooga FC, and McDaniel and Nuttall could "have a role" in the potential USL D3 team. Kelly said the moves came as a surprise and Chattanooga FC had no interest in joining the USL, which he told the Times Free Press has a "history of failed teams."

"We're in great shape," he said. "We're not going anywhere. We're here for the community, the fans and the city of Chattanooga. Our plans aren't changing."

Finley lease. Chattanooga FC plays at 20,000-seat Finley Stadium, though Kelly told Nipun Chopra of Soc Takes that the stadium lease expires in 2018.

The NPSL issued a statement that it also accepted McDaniel's resignation as a member of its executive board and reiterated its support for Chattanooga FC.
1 comment about "Lower-division fight heats up in Chattanooga".
  1. Wallace Wade, July 28, 2018 at 10:20 a.m.

    This whole thing stinks to high heaven! I’ve been to Fort Finley. Every supporter I spoke with told me they didn’t want a “Pro” team. They expressed support for the Club in its current form. Highly successful amateur Club, why would the hardcore fans support changing anything?

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