Date: Dec. 19, 2017
Nashville wins. And Nashville is cooler today than it was yesterday.
Major League Soccer is expected to announce its plan to grant Nashville an expansion franchise on Wednesday. It will mark the completion of a civic journey that appeared improbable at best just one year ago. It’s the start of another sports odyssey here. And it’s the continuation of growth for a city and league with room to grow.
Big-time soccer seems to fit perfectly here, and now we’re going to get it. Nashville’s MLS team is expected to begin play in 2020.
The league is in major markets, but it’s also in Portland. Salt Lake City. Vancouver. The Columbus, Ohio, team might move to Austin, Texas. There’s a young, hip vibe to the whole thing, and that certainly plays here.
Nashville and Buffalo were the only U.S. cities with the major-league combination of NFL and NHL teams, and now Nashville will stand alone with an NFL/NHL/MLS trio. This is a hockey town right now with the 1998-born Predators winning big and creating one of the best atmospheres in any sport, but this city has supported the Tennessee Titans as well since the franchise started playing in Nashville in 1998.
We have yet to demonstrate consistent support of a soccer team, which is one of the reasons this bid looked like a long shot when Nashville businessman Bill Hagerty organized an MLS steering committee in August 2016. That demonstration can begin in the spring when Nashville’s United Soccer League team, Nashville SC, debuts with games at First Tennessee Park, home of the Triple-A Sounds baseball team.
But we have demonstrated soccer fever. More than 47,000 people attended Nissan Stadium for a Gold Cup match between the United States and Panama – with MLS Commissioner Don Garber in attendance – in June. As a travel soccer parent, I can say I’m beyond impressed with the talent, coaching and passion for the sport in this area.