Club will maintain independence while elevating the experience for fans and increasing the quality of play on the field
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Nov. 14, 2023 — Chattanooga Football Club (CFC), an independent soccer club founded in 2009, today announced that it is joining MLS NEXT Pro beginning in 2024.
Launched in 2022 by Major League Soccer, MLS NEXT Pro is a professional men’s soccer league that will field 29 teams in 2024. Twenty-seven of those are affiliated with MLS clubs like Atlanta United, Inter Miami and Columbus Crew, plus independent clubs Chattanooga FC and Carolina Core.
The move to MLS NEXT Pro will coincide with a $1.8 million renovation at Finley Stadium to include a new luxury stadium club experience, new LED field lights, and elevator modernization. This is in addition to more than $300,000 invested in skybox A/V upgrades, food and beverage renovations, and general equipment replacements in 2023 for a total of $2.1 million.
“In order for us to fulfill our mission at an even higher level, we believe now is the time to join the MLS enterprise and MLS NEXT Pro,” said Alton Byrd, CEO. “We are fully committed to the development of our players, staff, and the greater Chattanooga community.”
“As mayor and a co-founder of the club, I am thrilled at today's announcement,” said Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly. “Chattanooga's club will gain a huge measure of stability and credibility, playing quality opponents in quality facilities with quality officiating and broadcasting, and CFC will once again be able to reignite regional rivalries our fans enjoyed for many years. And we will do so while maintaining our independence and the ideals that made us who we are as one of the premier community clubs in the U.S.”
For the past 15 years, CFC has excelled in each level of soccer in which it has competed. CFC recently won the first-ever regular season title for professional soccer in the city. The club is known around the world for success on the field, supporter culture and an unrivaled match-day experience at Finley Stadium. The club’s ownership structure includes 3,200+ supporter shareholders from all 50 states and 31 countries.
“Since its founding, Chattanooga FC has been a pillar in the community through its efforts both on and off the field. We are thrilled to welcome the Club to our League.” said Charles Altchek, President of MLS NEXT Pro. “We look forward to partnering with Davis Grizzard and making a significant and lasting impact in Chattanooga and the Tennessee Valley.
“In our history, every time we’ve needed them, our supporters have stood up for CFC,” said CFC primary owner and board vice-chairman Davis Grizzard. “We know that partnering with MLS NEXT Pro will put more eyes on our community now than ever before. As they’ve done for every major milestone in this club’s past, we’re excited to see our fans celebrate this next chapter.”
Preseason for Chattanooga Football Club is scheduled to begin in January with the regular season to begin in March.
The majority of MLS NEXT Pro games are broadcast live on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.
ABOUT CHATTANOOGA FOOTBALL CLUB
Founded in 2009 by Chattanoogans, the club became one of the most storied teams of the National Premier Soccer League and played in six national championships. It still holds the amateur soccer attendance record for 18,227 fans who watched the national final at Finley Stadium in 2015. The club turned professional before the 2020 season and its men’s team now competes in MLS NEXT Pro, which is part of Major League Soccer. The CFC Women’s team is an amateur summer league competing in the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL).
About MLS NEXT Pro
Launched in 2022 by Major League Soccer, MLS NEXT Pro is a professional men’s soccer league in the United States and Canada that completes the pro player pathway from MLS NEXT and youth Academies to MLS first teams. MLS NEXT Pro continues to grow the game through innovation and diversity, bringing professional soccer to new communities and creating opportunities both on and off the field. MLS NEXT Pro will celebrate its third season in 2024 with 29 teams, 27 MLS-affiliated and two independent, Carolina Core FC and Chattanooga FC. Additional MLS-affiliated and independent clubs will join in the years ahead, including Cleveland and Jacksonville Armada FC. The majority of MLS NEXT Pro’s matches are broadcast on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV as part of the groundbreaking partnership between Apple and MLS. For more information about MLS NEXT Pro, visit mlsnextpro.com.
Following the press conference and media availability, MLS NEXT Pro President Charles Altchek, MLS NEXT Pro SVP, General Counsel Brook Gardiner and MLS NEXT Pro SVP, Competition and Operations Ali Curtis joined Chattanooga FC primary owner and board vice-chairman Davis Grizzard and several CFC first-team players at the Bethlehem Center, a community-based education and resource access organization, for soccer drills and games.
TOWN HALL CELEBRATION
Fittingly, the day concluded with a celebration event with the CFC faithful. Fans gathered back at the Westin Chattanooga, the venue of the press conference earlier in the day, to bask in the news and to celebrate this next chapter for the club.
The evening concluded with a town hall Q&A hosted by play-by-play announcer Gabriel Schray, where fans had the opportunity to ask questions for the club and league executives.