MLS Expansion

Expect more MLS success in the Music City

Don Garber will unveil Nashville, Tennessee as the next expansion city for Major League Soccer. But what to expect? Can it mirror the success of Atlanta or will it be a step backward? Mark Fishkin looked at the factors and likes what he sees.

BY Mark Fishkin Posted
December 20, 2017
6:45 AM
PLENTY OF EYEBROWS ARCHED when Nashville entered the crowd of cities pitching for one of the final four MLS expansion teams. Upon first glance, soccer has a mixed history in the Music City. 

While the city has turned out for US Men’s and Women’s matches over the last decade, the Tennessee Capital can’t boast a massive soccer history. The Nashville Metros never averaged more than 400 fans per match over 19 seasons in the USISL, A-League, and PDL, and the USL Nashville SC has yet to kick a ball. U.S. Soccer has played important youth matches in Nashville, including Olympic qualifiers, and all failed to draw well. 

And yet, there are plenty of reasons to be excited that the MLS Nashville will be a success. Here's a list:

Financial Backing and Stadium Deal

MLS has enlisted NFL ownership families like the Hunts and Krafts to serve as the backbone of the early days of the league, and Arthur Blank’s largesse has built a phenomenal first-year sensation in Atlanta. 

With the New Jersey-based Wilf family, the owners of the Minnesota Vikings, recently joining Nashville’s already solid ownership team, MLS is confident in the money behind this new club. On Monday a judge dismissed a lawsuit seeking to block the publicly-backed stadium plan at the Nashville Fairgrounds, removing the last barrier for approval.


Nashville boasts the kind of demographic mix that makes the league salivate. Nashville boasts a young, growing downtown and a Latino community that’s grown 79 percent over the last decade. An increasingly international city, more than ten percent of Nashville’s population was born outside the US, many from soccer-mad nations.

Filling the Calendar

Nashville has already proven itself as a serious pro sports city through its support of the NFL Titans and the NHL Predators, who set the city ablaze during their recent Stanley Cup run. Without a top-level spring pro team, Nashville MLS will be able to capture a solid amount of sports media attention in town, especially over the summer when they’ll have the stage to themselves.

Local Rivals

Nashville fills a missing piece in the Mid-South region on the MLS map, and should create some compelling rivalries with Atlanta (249 miles away), Chicago (471 miles), Kansas City (558 miles), and even Washington (666 miles) and Orlando (687 miles).

Expect more Southern Success

In short, all the pieces are in place for another solid MLS expansion entry. And it shows that MLS is continuing to bet heavily on the southern states. And why not? Atlanta was a massive success in its debut season and Orlando still shows promise after opening its stadium. 

In a league when the top five teams on the league attendance chart have all launched in the last decade, expect the Nashville entry to mirror that success. 

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