Published May 19, 2022
Written By:    Cassidy Hettesheimer
​                South Region Contributor

The WPSL’s Southeast Conference will say hello to several familiar faces, a returning juggernaut and a club making the jump from the WPSL U21 league for the upcoming 2022 season. The conference will kick off play with North Alabama SC hosting TN Force FC on Friday, May 20.

Here’s a breakdown of who’s who in the Southeast Conference this season:


Nashville Rhythm FC

Nashville Rhythm FC returns to the Southeast conference as the reigning regular-season champions. The Rhythm went 7-1-2 last season and swept the awards for the conference’s top defensive player, offensive player and leading goal scorer – awarded to Becca Campbell, Kyoka Koshijima and Peyton Depriest, respectively.

All three award winners return to play for the Rhythm this summer, as Nashville also adds players like midfielder Yuki Watari and forward Keito Ido, who won the 2021 NAIA national championship with the University of Tennessee Southern.

Two-time conference Coach of the Year Scott Davidson will lead the Rhythm in its quest to build off last season’s success which saw the team claim the regular season and reach the conference title match before falling to Chattanooga Red Wolves SC in the conference final.

“Having new teams come in, it creates a different dynamic, obviously,” Davidson said. “With the teams that have been here consistently over the past several years, we've kind of gotten to know each other; we've got to know the coaches, we've got to know the players. With new teams coming in, that just creates a new challenge, but we're definitely up for that challenge.”



TN Force FC

TN Force FC will be a new team competing in the conference this summer after playing at the WPSL U21 level last year and making the jump up to the senior tier for 2022. The Force won the U21 Southeast conference in 2021, clinching the championship with a resounding 4-0 victory over Southern Soccer Academy’s U21 team.

The team, headed by coach Laban DeFriese, will look to see if its success on the U21 level will transfer into the senior-level conference. According to TN Force FC’s general manager and owner Tom Hansford, the team has focused on recruiting and developing local Knoxville talent to help round out the 2022 roster for the club’s transition. 


“We are recruiting heavily on the young side to keep building over the next several years, [with] the goal of creating a culture where they know they have a place to train and compete,” Hansford said. “We have a lot of youthful energy on this summer’s team. We’re excited.”



Alabama FC

Alabama FC is one of three teams returning to the Southeast Conference this season and is the most tenured team in the conference, heading into its ninth season after joining the league in 2013. The team has had several strong seasons in its deep history, including a second-place regular-season finish in 2018.

Last season, Alabama FC finished middle of the pack after going 3-4-3 and tallying 14 goals on the season. The club also had three All-Conference team honorees: defender Tara Katz, midfielder Stella Kiss and forward Hailey Whitaker. Head coach Jay Hammond, who has been with the team since 2015, will also bring some experienced to the historied team in the largely-changing conference.



North Alabama SC

Coming into its third WPSL season, North Alabama SC will look to see if it can use its increased experience to jump up in the conference rankings this season.

Coach Amar Amin’s team is strong on homegrown and in-state talent, with the club emphasizing the fact that the WPSL is the top tier of its player development pathway. Many of its players hail from the University of Alabama-Huntsville and the University of Alabama-Birmingham, among other in-state colleges.

This includes three former NASC club players-- Georgia White from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Sophie Smith from Birmingham-Southern College and Jayla Gillespie, an incoming player at the University of Alabama-Huntsville-- who will return for their second seasons with the team.



Chattanooga FC

Chattanooga FC’s return to the WPSL will ensure that the scenic city will maintain its prowess in amateur women’s soccer. The team hasn’t competed in the WPSL since 2018, on hiatus for three years including the COVID-19 pandemic, but the last time CFC competed in the WPSL, it went undefeated to win the Southeast Conference. 

With new head coach Randy Douglas, Chattanooga FC will look to dethrone the Southeast conference teams that have become powerhouses in the time since the club has been absent from the WPSL. Players like Nathaly Villalobos, having played with Puerto Rico’s U20 national team, will bring national-team experience.

Others will bring local ties, like defender Ana Silva, who was a part of Chattanooga FC’s first-ever academy team in 2012. Many college teammates, from Point University, Reinhardt, Montreat College and UT-Chattanooga will reunite on the field for Chattanooga FC this summer as the club looks to reenter the WPSL with a bang.



The full schedule for the Southeast Conference can be viewed here.