MLS has announced there will be an announcement in Nashville on Wednesday at the Country Music Hall of Fame. In attendance will be league commissioner Don Garber, John R. Ingram of Nashville Soccer Holdings LLC, Tennessee governor Bill Haslam, and Nashville mayor Megan Barry.
A longshot in the expansion process a year ago, Nashville ramped up its chances with two vital developments. In August, the Wilf family, which owns the NFL Minnesota Vikings, joined the Nashville ownership fronted by Ingram. Last month, the Metro Council voted 31-6 to approve bond funding for a $275 million stadium (capacity: 27,500) at the city fairgrounds.
Along with representatives from the other finalist cities -- Sacramento, Detroit, and Cincinnati – the Nashville group made final presentations to MLS Dec. 6, which followed a league announcement of its four finalists. At the time the league said two of those four would be selected for the next round of expansion to start play in 2020. Right now, Nashville is projected to be the 24th MLS team, with a long-delayed attempt in Miami having gained some steam in the past few days with a shakeup in its ownership group.
The Wednesday announcement will presumably include a date for Nashville to start play in MLS, but the status of Miami and the other three finalists could push back any such decision. Next year, the league will field an odd number of teams, 23, when Los Angeles FC starts play in its new Banc of California Stadium.
For scheduling and numerical equality between the Eastern and Western Conferences, MLS prefers an even number of teams. It could achieve that by bringing Nashville on-line, but that would mean excluding one of the other four finalists, unless it can affirm the Miami bid and set a date for that team to start play along with one of the other three finalists. Depending on how the cities shake out, MLS could grow to 26 teams as soon as 2020.
Nashville will be the 13th team added by MLS since 2007, more than doubling its size from the 12 teams it fielded in 2006. (One of that dozen, Chivas USA, was terminated after the 2014 season). The announcement will be streamed live on MLSsoccer.com starting at 5 p.m. ET.