Santa Brings Professional Soccer To Nashville

Christmas-FootballAfter months of anticipation, Christmas came early for soccer fans in the Music City at the Commissioner of Major League Soccer (MLS), Don Garber, announced that Nashville would be the next MLS expansion team.  The team will begin play in 2020.

The new professional soccer team will now join the Tennessee Titans and Nashville Predators in the Music City’s sports landscape.  Both the Titans’ and Predators’ organizations were also supportive of bringing an MLS team to Nashville.

The Nashville MLS team should probably put something in the Nashville Predators’ Christmas stocking as many think the success of the Predators in Stanley Cup playoffs increased the chances of securing one of the four coveted slots.

Work will now begin on building the home for the new team.  Current plans call for the stadium to be built at the state fairgrounds.  Personally, this isn’t the most ideal location and I have been opposed to this idea but it appears that the team will proceed with their plans to build their house of soccer in this south Nashville location.   On November 7th, the Metro Nashville City Council approved $225 million to build a 27,500-seat stadium.

So now the REAL work begins as the front office, coaches, players and season ticket drives will begin.  I think professional soccer will be successful in Nashville.  As successful as the Predators?  Probably not but the Predators got off to a weak start themselves and at one point nearly left Nashville for Hamilton, Ontario.    I do believe that soccer will be a good fit to fill the void between the hockey and football seasons although they will overlap.

Nashville and Sacramento were the favorites for the next two teams.  Cincinnati and Detroit are also expected to round out the two remaining expansion slots.  Nashville becomes the league’s 24th team.  Just a year ago Nashville was considered a long shot to snag one of the coveted expansion slots.  Now, they became the first one to do it ahead of the other applicants.

Nashville’s chances were also helped with hosting soccer events at Nissan Stadium over the past few years which drew sell-out crowds for international matches.

Major League Soccer recently completed its 22nd season on December 9th when Toronto FC defeated Seattle FC 2-0 for the title.  The MLS started with 10 teams in 1996.

There is no word on what the team name will officially be titled.  Major League Soccer is a bit different than other leagues in that aspect.  Most teams stick to the traditions of the European leagues which do not necessarily name them the same as other leagues.  Some teams will put FC (for Football Club) at the beginning or end – such as Toronto FC or FC Dallas.  Some teams incorporate a little of both such as the Seattle Sounders FC.  Atlanta United was an expansion last season and should easily become a natural rivalry for the new Nashville team.



Nashville becomes Major League Soccer’s 24th team


Will 47,622 = MLS Team For Nashville?

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:

  1. Phoenix
  2. Tampa Bay
  3. Cincinnati
  4. Nashville
  5. Sacramento
  6. San Diego
  7. St. Louis
  8. Detroit
  9. Raleigh
  10. Indianapolis
  11. San Antonio
  12. Charlotte

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.