On August 8, the National Premier Soccer League shocked the US soccer landscape by drawing a record crowd to Chattanooga FC’s Finley Stadium for the NPSL National Championship match. Although many of the 18,227 fans left disappointed after Chattanooga fell to New York Cosmos B, interest in the league and Chattanooga FC was raised.
Considered the fourth-tier of US soccer, the NPSL was made up of 68 teams stretched across the country in 2015. Split into regional conferences, Chattanooga FC played their fourth NPSL Final in six seasons. Always the bridesmaid, the club are still looking for their first piece of NPSL Championship silverware. This year’s final marked the second consecutive year the team had lost to a ‘B-squad’ from New York, as the team lost the 2014 installment to New York Red Bulls U-23. Despite the setback, however, the club is extremely optimistic for the future; and proud of the ground they have covered since debuting in 2009.
Recently, in an exclusive interview with World Soccer Talk, Chattanooga FC co-founder Tim Kelly spoke about the club’s success and their ambitions for the future.
Drew Farmer: Firstly, let’s start with the amazing crowd that came out to Finley Stadium for the NPSL National Championship game between Chattanooga FC and New York Cosmos B. A reported 18,227 were at the final. What was the atmosphere like for that game and how has the support for the club been throughout the season, because most of the US soccer media has only just picked up on Chattanooga FC thanks to the final?
Time Kelly: The atmosphere for that game was incredible. Watching the pre-game ticket sales climb past our previous total attendance record was just surreal, and then seeing that crowd in the stadium was just beyond anything we dreamed possible when we founded the club. Support throughout the season was good, but slightly lower than what we hoped for, largely, we think, due to some midweek games. However, I think we still lead the NPSL by a wide margin in average attendance at 4,673.
Drew Farmer: Obviously, the soccer has to be good to bring people out, but Chattanooga regularly does well in attendance. What’s the team’s secret to success?
Tim Kelly: Well, if it were a secret, I’m not sure I’d share it, but as best I can tell, it’s this: we have an incredible supporters group, the Chattahooligans, who really make the players feel loved, so they play great, which attracts more fans, which attracts the best players the following season, and the “virtuous circle” just spirals upwards. It also helps that we have a great facility in Finley Stadium, and we stay on top of technology and social media to market and manage the enterprise in the most efficient way possible. And finally, we manage our brand very carefully and intentionally.