Nashville doesn't jump out at you as a soccer town but the crowd of 47,662 at Nissan Stadium for Saturday's USA-Panama game in the Gold Cup certainly got a lot of attention. It set a record for a
soccer crowd in the state of Tennessee and confirmed the interest of MLS, which was in town to evaluate its expansion effort.
Nashville was one of the last of the 12 bidders to get
organized, but its bid has quickly gathered steam.
Nashville businessman John Ingram purchased
the majority interest in Nashville SC, which will begin play in the USL in 2018.
Nashville SC hired Court Jeske
, who previously served as SUM's vice president of international business, as its first president and Gary Smith
, who led the Colorado Rapids to the MLS Cup
2010 title, as its first head coach.
Nashville's other lead bidder is Bill Hagerty
, Tennessee's former commissioner of economic development and President Donald Trump
nominee to be the U.S. ambassador to Japan, succeeding Caroline Kennedy
Ingram has been working to solidify a stadium plan necessary to have any chance of convincing MLS to bring
a team to its community.
Mayor Megan Barry
favors the construction of a soccer stadium (cost: $110 million) at the Fairgrounds Nashville as part of other work on facilities at the
speedway, located south of downtown Nashville. Vanderbilt University has been surveying fans whether they would watch its football team at a soccer stadium.
MLS commissioner Don
, who dined with Tennessee governor Bill Haslam
on his trip to Nashville, said even before Saturday's match the Music City has demonstrated it could punch above expectations with its
support for international matches.
Getting funding for a stadium deal -- his third leg of the stool -- would quickly put Nashville near the top of MLS's expansion list.
“I think there is an opportunity for Nashville to rise higher on the list," told the Tennessean
, "because there appears to be a more streamlined process to have the third
leg of the stool, which is the stadium."