MLS Expansion: Nashville punches above expectations

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's 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 Garber, 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."
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2 comments about "MLS Expansion: Nashville punches above expectations".
  1. Matt Riggs, July 11, 2017 at 9:41 a.m.

    The league not needs to ask itself which is more important. An existing fan base of over 25K who will go to a game no matter what (Cincinnati or Sacramento)or a shiny new stadium in an unknown market that's potentially only half full? Maybe they'll hit the jackpot and pick a market with both. Atlanta is working out well, and that's before the shiny new stadium is even open.

  2. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, July 11, 2017 at 4 p.m.

    I think MLS is going to 40 teams long term so I think eventually all of these cities will have teams. That said, I agree that places with existing passionate fan bases like Cincy and Sacramento should be at the front of the line.

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