Sports Calendar

July 1, 2012

Mexican pro soccer teams will play at Finley

Northwest Georgia soccer fans should feel lucky to get such a rare treat.

Two well-known Mexican professional soccer teams, Club America and Pachuca FC, will play an exhibition match at 8 p.m. Saturday at Chattanooga’s Finley Stadium.

Soccer World Sports, which hosts and promotes exhibition soccer matches and is based in Nashville, Tenn., is putting on the event. In 2004, Soccer World hosted a match between the UAG Tecos from Guadalajara, Mexico and Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy at the Tennessee Titans’ LP Field in Nashville.

And the plan was to return there with Club American and Pachuca FC.

“I had looked into doing it again at LP Field or even Vanderbilt Stadium,” Soccer World owner Mark Weisman said. “Both stadiums happen to be undergoing renovations right now. The opportunity was there to get these two teams together. So I started looking around and saying, ‘OK, what are my options?’”

Weisman’s grandmother was born in Mexico and he said he has “a special affinity to the Spanish market.” Due to the high Spanish-speaking population in Northwest Georgia and Southeast Tennessee, he settled on Chattanooga as his new game site.

“I’ve done a lot of work with demographics,” Weisman said. “I knew there was a high concentration of Spanish speakers in the Atlanta and Dalton area. It just kind of all came together, so it made sense. On top of that, the business people in Chattanooga have been absolutely wonderful and receptive to the idea of diversity and bringing in teams from other countries.”

In addition, Hugo Sanchez, the former Mexican national soccer team star, will coach the Pachuca FC side.

“He was just hired in June,” Weisman said. “We had signed contracts with both teams. It would’ve been a great match anyways. He is the most famous Mexican soccer player of all time. As a coach he has been good, too.”

Tickets, which range from $35 to $45, can be purchased in advance via Ticketmaster, but also will be available at the stadium the day of the game.

The match will pit two members of the Mexican Premier League, known as La Liga, against one another. However, even though it is an exhibition match, it might have a rivalry flair to it.

“There’s been a lot of neat things that have happened to kind of give it an understory,” Weisman said. “Club America eliminated Pachuca from the title run three months ago.

“It’s just a friendly (match), but it kind of gives Pachuca a chance for some payback.”

Weisman was in the working stages of also bringing some of the players specifically to Dalton. Nothing was finalized as of Thursday evening, but Weisman said he wanted to bring “two or three players from Pachuca” to the Carpet Capital to speak to young fans.

“It won’t be a clinic, but might be a meet-and-greet and autograph session,” he said.

And while this match is still six days from happening, Weisman is already working on a return to the area with two new teams. However, a lot depends on the reception Saturday’s contest receives.

“We’re already talking with some teams for next year,” he said. “It is something I think we’re going to do annually in the summer. It might not always be Mexican teams. ... I’m also looking at the possibility of European teams.

“I would like to do the same stadium. If the fans in Dalton and Chattanooga will support this match, then that tells me, ‘OK, these guys really do love the Mexican league.’ Then I would feel really good about bringing two more teams.”

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