Chattanooga Football Club had an amazing 2018. It took home the regular season conference championship in its tenth season in the Scenic City. After the season was over, it was announced that it would be going pro in 2019 as one of the teams competing in the Founders Cup. 2019 is set to be an even more historic year for the club. For starters, the club announced that it is selling shares in the club to fans. The shares give fans the opportunity to be partial owners in the club and gives them a vote on certain issues. So far, the sale of shares has netted nearly $560,000 from just over 2,000 investors. That’s sure to bring a surge of proud fans/owners to their matches.
This year will see the club look to win back-to-back regular season conference championships. In 2018, it lost to the Atlanta Silverbacks under controversial circumstances in the Conference Championship Game. Hopefully for CFC things will go differently. On top of the regular NPSL season, Chattanooga FC will compete in the Founders Cup following the end of the National Playoffs. This will be the first time we see the club competing as a professional team as it takes the field against other nationally (and internationally) recognizable names, such as the New York Cosmos, Miami FC, and Detroit City FC.
It’ll also be the first time that CFC will have to worry about in-city competition as USL League One’s Chattanooga Red Wolves SC will begin competing this coming season. The club has all of the pieces for a special season. Overall, it should be another successful season for “the club that Chattanooga built.”
Fresh off the back of a highly-publicized rebranding, Atlanta SC enters 2019 having conquered the Southeast in 2018. The club finished second, four points away below Chattanooga, but would eventually win the conference title in a conference playoff final against Chattanooga. The club would lose its chance to win its first regional title, however, after losing to Miami FC 2- the eventual national champions -in the regional semifinal.
Atlanta SC has become a common source of conference success in the NPSL, with the club finishing second on the table in every consecutive season since 2012, excluding a hiatus in 2013. The club, however, has only gone on to win its conference playoffs twice, leaving some serious room for improvement. All of this is a testament to the club’s long tenure in the NPSL which dates back to 2008, before the club was affiliated with the NASL’s Atlanta Silverbacks and long before it adopted the name for its own use.
The club’s 7-3-4 record is a good one, though the club did find itself conceding far more than the clubs around it with 21 conceded and a goal difference of plus eight. With Chattanooga FC conceding sixteen and New Orleans Jesters conceding eighteen, an improved goal concession rate could be a big statistical boost for the club’s 2019 squad and at the very least help it secure another second place finish. With the Jesters only finish one point behind them in 2018, any improvement will be a important for Atlanta.
Atlanta SC will be competing for the title with a Chattanooga FC side that is rocketing toward professional soccer, leaving Atlanta with a bigger hill to climb than ever before. With a new home stadium on the way, a new badge, and a new name, the former Silverbacks have a big year ahead of them. Success will leave supporters excited for the future, failure to live up to top table expectations could leave most thinking only of the past.
Inter Nashville FC
With a 6-2-6 record and a respectable fourth place finish to its name, Inter Nashville is a promising club in the Southeast, one that’s young age puts it on the other end of a spectrum filled with older clubs. Having joined the NPSL in 2016 after spending five years as a smaller scale youth and adult soccer program, INFC finds itself competing with clubs that have called the NPSL home for nearly a decade and the likes of New Orleans, which played in the PDL for nine years before joining the league.
The club isn’t just competing with long time titans through its presence- it’s managed to earn strong results, finish with twenty points (eight away from first place) and tying the Atlanta Silverbacks for second-most goals scored at 29. Inter Nashville conceded 26 goals, far too many to realistically climb any higher in the table, but a shift in that number would leave the Southeast with a club that could very well find itself above Atlanta SC or the New Orleans Jesters.
One notable detail of Nashville’s goals conceded count comes from conceding goals in otherwise strong victories. This includes its 3-2 win over Greenville FC, its 6-2 win against the Georgia Revolution, and its 5-3 win over Emerald Force SC. All three opponents finished below Inter Nashville with Greenville earning five fewer points and Emerald eight fewer. The seven goals in those games are the difference between a fantastic 19 goals conceded and its actual finish with 26.
Tightening up the defense in games against weaker sides while maintaining its offensive skill could put Inter in a powerful position when the 2019 season comes along, one that will pit it against a soon-to-be pro Chattanooga FC, a rebranded Atlanta SC, and an Emerald Soccer-less conference. Times of change are often the best for a sudden burst of quality. Keep an eye on Inter Nashville.
Asheville City SC
Asheville City is yet another young club playing in a league of veterans. Based in Asheville, North Carolina, the club played its first season in the Southeast in 2018, having spent the prior season in the Southeast East division while the Southeast was split into two sections by the NPSL. This left the club with three brand new opponents in New Orleans, Chattanooga, and Inter Nashville. With that in mind, the club ended the year in fifth place with a 5-3-6 record and largely represented the line between the clubs that did well and those that struggled in the Southeast.
Asheville City was slower in the final third than most of its competitors, only scoring eighteen goals, the least of any clubs in the conference. This was paired with a reasonable 22 goals allowed, leaving the club with a minus four goal difference. Three of the clubs above Asheville ended the season with at least ten more goals scored.
Asheville also suffered from a wildly inconsistent series of results, ranging from a 3-1 win over the Silverbacks to a 2-0 loss to last-placed Emerald Force. The club went as far as to lose 5-1 to Inter Nashville and then beat Inter 2-0 three days later. Consistency makes great squads, and it’ll be crucial for Asheville City to find it if it wants 2019 to be a different story from 2018. A top three finish seems out of the cards if Asheville City stays on its current path, but a slight improvement on fighting for wins and draws could see them rise to fourth or at the very least defend its fifth-place finish. As with Inter, Asheville is a younger project that may simply need the time Atlanta and Chattanooga have already had to develop into a stronger club. With that in mind, City is a club to watch for the long haul, regardless of whether or not it earns a top spot in 2019.
The Revs are coming off of a sixth place finish in the NPSL Southeast last season. Despite finishing in a relatively low spot on the table, it was still a historic season for the team from McDonough, Georgia. For the first time since 2015, the club made the playoffs. That set up a match in Louisiana with the Jesters where the improbable happened. The Revolution upset the third seeded Jesters and picked up its first playoff win in club history. It would be knocked out in the next round, but that’s not the important part of this whole thing.
The Revs will be looking to continue improving after one of the best seasons in club history. Backed by his team’s supporters’ group, The Uprising, general manager Eric Morrison will be dealing with massive turnover as only about half of the 2018 roster will be returning for 2019. Those players include Ehjayson Henry, Toni Tiente, Rodrigo Goncalves, Aaron Whitten, and Jack Gurr. These guys contributed massively last year whether it was on the attack or back on the defensive side of things. The club has always focused on having players from the Atlanta area and this offseason, it’s looked to the same area to find more players. The overlap of the player pool causes the Silverbacks (now Atlanta SC) and the Revs to be feature as one of the biggest rivalries in the Southeast Conference.
Coming to seventh place, we find Greenville FC, which finished three points behind the Georgia Revolution with a record of 4-3-7. The club won’t have Emerald Force to finish above next season and will indeed have to take inventory to find out how to finish above the final place in the conference.
The club scored a decent 20 goals but conceded 28 - the most in the conference apart from Emerald Force -and will need to work on both numbers to pass the Revolution and Asheville City and find a home in the middle of the table. Greenville is the youngest club in the conference, having laid its foundations in 2017 and playing in the NPSL for the first time in 2018.
The club’s most shocking results quickly show the roots of its table placement, as it lost twice to last-placed Emerald Force in two blowout losses, a 5-2 loss and a 4-1 loss. The combined nine goals are roughly a third of the team’s goals conceded and the six points lost would have left it in fifth place, well above Asheville and the Georgia Revolution. Keeping composure in otherwise “easy” matches and earning those key points is easily at the top of the list for what Greenville needs to work on for 2019. With that in mind, Greenville won’t have Emerald to play next season.
While Greenville can afford to score more goals, its table position can be best changed by a slight change in consistency when it comes to playing the teams near it on the table. Its youth means it has every reason to believe progress is in the future, but it’s hard to see it catching up to Inter Nashville and Asheville City levels of young success in 2019 with its conference marching toward more professionalism and losing its weakest club.
Photos courtesy of club social media and Protagonist Soccer, unless otherwise mentioned. Custom art designed by Laura Mills. Previews written by Aarik Long and Dominic Bisogno with input from David Baker, Joshua Duder, and Dan Vaughn.