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Rustand: CFC is going amazing places

Paul Rustand

Chattanooga FC wants to express its thanks and appreciation to Paul Rustand for his contributions as a co-founder and former chairman of the board which laid out the club’s path since its founding in 2009 up until his departure in 2023.

Paul’s constant commitment and dedication to the club have been instrumental to Chattanooga FC’s involvement in the local community and the brand we’ve built as a whole.

During this interview, Paul shared his insights on his experience with the club and how far it has come over the years. As we acknowledge Paul's time here, we also look ahead to the future and what that holds for CFC.

How would you describe and sum up your time as Chairman? When you reflect back what are some highlights that stand out?

Paul Rustand: There’s a lot of things…the biggest transitions has been navigating: how do we move from amateur to professional, how do we do that with the much bigger financial burden? I felt privileged to be a part of the transition. For a lot of us founders, it feels like our kid has grown up and is ready to go to college. We’re like, 'Oh no, can they really go to college?' So, to me, that’s kind of the most rewarding thing is to feel like we helped make this thing, it’s going amazing places and it’ll be super fun to watch where it goes from there.

When you think back to the beginning of the club to now, seeing the moment we’re in and the transition we're in, what emotions do you feel?

It’s a bunch of stuff. It’s funny, the old stick of the married couple that’s finally made it. They have a good job, and a nice house, and all the kids look back fondly on being young and scrapping for food in college, rental house, or apartment. It has kind of that aspect; there are things about that sort of ragtagness that is really amazing. But at the same time, I feel like what we’ve constantly tried to do is give the city something to gather around. So, any person from any socio-economic status, from any background or nationality, if they like soccer or even if they don’t, it's a way to cheer for the city and be proud of the city. I felt like that was the big reason we did it, and the city embraced it.

Hopefully, as we’re starting to see kids from the academy slowly get their chances and hopefully continue to see that grow, it'll be even more exciting. That’s really a lot of why Krue [Brock] and I and a couple of the other guys started the team, was just to give our kids something to look up to. To see some kids getting there chance has been really amazing.

What are you excited about most with the move to MLS NEXT Pro?

I’m most excited about opportunities for our players and coaches…I do think we have a lot of talent. It’ll be wonderful to be plugged into a way to get into the highest, best league in the United States. Second, to be in that ecosystem is definitely exciting to me. Yes, we’re in the second tier and there’s no promotion or relegation, but I think the level of play is going to be so much higher, the level of coaching, scouting, athletic training, and all that will be much higher, and I think we have a lot we can really learn from that. I think it’s very important to have these independent teams come in; I think they’ll inject a lot of life into the league and a lot of good excitement for the league. It’s such a big country, and there’s so many places, it’s just great to sort of have that network of opportunity for the leagues and the players. I’ll be really fascinated to see what sort of players come through that may have gotten missed through other channels.

Any final message to the Chattanooga community as we embark on this new chapter?

We've always felt that being independent was important to American soccer, and we've always felt that an independent, interconnected leagues need to exist in the United States. I feel like we've made a tiny, little impact on that. It could be very easy to get distracted and make that our purpose instead of trying to bring the city together. We've been able to keep our focus on how we serve the city and how we make the city glad that we're here.