Nashville SC (MLS)
Nashville Soccer Club will be a Major League Soccer expansion franchise that is expected to begin play in 2020. The club will be based in Nashville, Tennessee, and plans to play their home matches at the Nashville Fairgrounds at a planned 27,500-seat soccer-specific stadium. It is owned by three billionaire families: the Ingrams, the Turners, and the Wilfs.
|Full name||Nashville Soccer Club|
|Founded||December 20, 2017|
|Head coach||Gary Smith|
|League||Major League Soccer|
Soccer in Nashville
Prior to the arrival of Nashville's MLS team, the city had various soccer teams that played in the lower divisions of American soccer. The most notable teams were the Nashville Metros who played from 1989 until 2012 and Nashville FC, who played in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) from 2013 to 2016. The city also hosts two NCAA Division I men's soccer teams, the Belmont Bruins and Lipscomb Bisons. The Vanderbilt Commodores also played Division I men's soccer until the team's demise after the 2005 season. Prior to these teams, the Nashville Diamonds participated in the then-second division, American Soccer League for one season in 1982.
The NPSL team, Nashville FC, was founded by a supporters group that intended to form a team as a fan-owned group. Chris Jones, Nashville FC's president, cited existing fan-owned clubs as inspiration for NFC's foundation, in particular the English club F.C. United of Manchester. In February 2014, the two groups merged to form a single club for the 2014 NPSL season. The club had two teams participating in the Middle Tennessee Soccer Alliance, Nashville's largest competitive adult league, and had partnered with the Tennessee State Soccer Association (TSSA), an organization with over 20,000 registered players in the Middle Tennessee area alone. The team played its matches at Vanderbilt Stadium. The NPSL club had ambitions of climbing the American Soccer Pyramid, with the reported target an entry into the third-tier United Soccer League (USL; now known as the USL Championship) by 2017, and then ascension into the Division II North American Soccer League by 2020. However, in 2016, the USL awarded a franchise to a separate ownership group in Nashville. Nashville FC subsequently sold its team name, logo, and color scheme to the new USL franchise, which became known as Nashville SC, in exchange for a 1 percent equity stake in the USL team and a voting seat on its board.
In August 2016, a group of Nashville business leaders from several of the city's largest corporations formed the Nashville MLS Organizing Committee and began efforts to secure funding for an MLS stadium. The group, led by Bill Hagerty, sought an MLS team immediately rather than working up the soccer pyramid. The group fully supported the recently awarded USL expansion team, Nashville SC, which began play in 2018. Both groups supported each other in their common vision to grow the sport in Tennessee. In October 2017, the group unveiled their plans for $275 million stadium and redevelopment project, which was approved by the city in November.
The formal bid to add an MLS franchise to Nashville began in January 2017. On March 4, 2017, businessman John Ingram, under the entity Nashville Holdings LLC, bought a majority stake in DMD Soccer, the ownership group of Nashville SC. Ingram also headed up the bid to bring an MLS franchise to Nashville, and the partnership between Ingram and Nashville SC was an effort to present a united front to MLS after Nashville was named one of ten finalist cities for four MLS franchises. In August 2017, Mark Wilf, Zygi Wilf and Leonard Wilf joined as investors; the Wilfs, owners of the NFL's Minnesota Vikings, had previously backed an aborted MLS expansion bid in Minneapolis.
On December 19, 2017, news broke that Nashville would be awarded an expansion slot. The announcement was made official on December 20, 2017, when it was confirmed that the club would join MLS in 2020.
On May 21, 2018, Ian Ayre was announced as the CEO of the franchise.
Nashville SC's inaugural MLS match is scheduled for February 29, 2020, with the club hosting Atlanta United FC at Nissan Stadium.
Club crest and colors
Nashville SC's primary colors are electric gold and acoustic blue, which were also used by the lower-league club. The club's crest is a gold octagon with a monogram "N" and several vertical bars in blue. The vertical bars were chosen to represent sound waves and vibrations, referencing the city's musical history.
A 27,500-seat soccer-specific stadium at the Nashville Fairgrounds is planned to be the team's home when it opens in 2022. The $275 million stadium will be mostly funded by revenue bonds from the Nashville government, per an agreement with the Nashville Metro Council that was approved in November 2017. The council approved the stadium on September 4, 2018, with the votes 31-yes and 8-no, with a crowd in the room of supporters and opponents in the audience. A referendum for "partial funding" was rejected by the council, with the votes 25-yes (to reject the referendum) and 12-no (to permit).
- Garrison, Joey (January 10, 2019). "Nashville Sports Authority finalizes $225M bond sale for new MLS stadium". The Tennesseean. Retrieved February 27, 2019.
- "Nashville MLS expansion team unveils name, crest". MLSSoccer.com. MLS Digital. February 20, 2019. Retrieved February 27, 2019.
Ingram's partners in the soccer club include Minnesota Vikings owners Mark, Zygi and Leonard Wilf, and the Turner Family, managing partners of Nashville-based MarketStreet Enterprises.
- Garrison, Joey (October 4, 2017). "Nashville MLS stadium plan raises questions over 10-acre private development". The Tennesseean. Retrieved February 21, 2019.
The Turners, who led the transformation of the Gulch neighborhood a decade ago, recently signed on as minority owners in the Ingram-led MLS investment group.
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