On Saturday, Nashville hosted two Gold Cup games at Nissan Stadium as observers watched to gauge the support of the Music City for soccer. As one of 12 cities hoping to secure a team in future expansion of Major League Soccer (MLS), supporters hoped Nashville would have a good showing to help the city’s effforts. The largest crowd ever to watch a soccer game in the State of Tennessee showed up. But will the crowd of almost 48,000 help Nashville’s case for one of four future MLS expansion franchises?
It certainly didn’t hurt. But just one game with a record-breaking attendance is quite different than supporting a team during the regular season. It would also be especially challenging if the team is in the cellar of the standings. Of course, it isn’t realistic to think that 48,000 would be the average attendance for an potential Nashville MLS team. However, on the other hand, it would be interesting to see the city transformed as it was during the Stanley Cup playoffs for the Predators if the Nashville MLS team were to be in the MLS Cup.
We won’t find out if Nashville made the first round of two expansion teams until later this year. Most soccer experts say that the city will probably not be one of the first two and most likely still on the outside looking in when the league announces the final two expansion teams in late 2018. Nashville does have many things going for its bid in additional to the showing of support on Saturday. Local government officials and ownership is already in place and the only remaining question is committing to a stadium plan. MLS requires that their teams have soccer-specific stadiums. Recent reports have been that the Tennessee State Fairgrounds would be the location for such a stadium and with the state fair moving to another location, that option seems a likely choice. Personally, I’m not really sold on that location as there will need to be a lot more infrastructure needed (improved parking, public transportation, etc.) to establish a first-class, professional soccer facility in that area of town. There is still time to look at other options but local officials need to work together quickly to have some tangible decisions made.
So did this turnout for the Gold Cup move Nashville up the list of 12? It may have moved the bid up a notch or two but the question will be if the MLS Expansion Committee will have long term memory about this weekend or will the large turnout be forgotten?
The Nashville Scene magazine seems to think Sacramento, California is a “lock” for one of the four expansion teams. I’m not sure how they arrived at that opinion but surely Nashville is a better fit than Sacramento.
After compiling several rankings, here are the overall chances:
- Tampa Bay
- San Diego
- St. Louis
- San Antonio
I think Nashville would get an expansion nod if the four slots were awarded today but with the time left until decisions are made, the Music City needs to keep playing their tune for the MLS.