When you think of Nashville you think of country music and who personifies country music? You’d say names like Johnny Cash and there’s no better choice out there. Alternative of course being Johnny Paycheck, who was once acquitted from shooting a man over an argument for a recipe for turtle soup. Nowadays it’s been taken over by the likes of Garth Brooks, Blake Shelton, Shania Twain and Keith Urban. Urban, Keith Urban. There’s a name that invokes all the rural qualities that country music’s always stood for.
It was announced on Wednesday 20th December that the next city to receive an MLS expansion franchise is Nashville.
The news was made official at a Wednesday afternoon event at Nashville’s County Music Hall of Fame. The Nashville entry is the first of twelve hopeful cities who submitted a formal bid back in January to be awarded one of just four available MLS expansion franchises.
Nashville’s MLS team will be owned by the investment group, Nashville Soccer Holdings, LLC, led by John R. Ingram, the chairman of Ingram Industries Inc. 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. Because of a private-public partnership between the club’s owners and the community, the team will play in a new, 27,500-seat soccer stadium at The Fairgrounds Nashville in the capital city’s artistic Wedgewood-Houston vicinity.
“Nashville is a rising city with a passionate soccer fan base, a dedicated ownership group and civic leaders that truly believe in this sport,” said Commissioner Garber in a statement. “Nashville continues its ascent as one of America’s most dynamic communities, with its incredible energy and creativity. For us, that makes it a perfect place for MLS expansion. John Ingram and his partners had a plan to bring MLS to Nashville during the last year and they executed it at every level. Thanks to their vision, the soccer fans of Tennessee will soon have their own MLS club and a state-of-the-art soccer stadium that undoubtedly will be a centerpiece of the community.”
John Ingram is chairman of Ingram Industries Inc., and an active leader in the Nashville community as a philanthropist, businessman and sports enthusiast. Ingram has led the bid to bring Nashville to MLS for more than a year and, in May 2017, became the majority owner of Nashville SC, which begins play in the United Soccer League (USL) in 2018.
“This is a landmark day for Nashville and for all of the loyal and ardent soccer advocates in our state and our region,” said Ingram. “During the last year, with the support of our partners, the fans, and civic and community leaders, we were able to make a strong case for why Major League Soccer belonged in the great sports town of Nashville. Thank you MLS owners and Commissioner Garber for your confidence in us. We will have a team that everyone can be proud of, and we will take a leadership role in enhancing the growth of the sport in a region that already has a passionate soccer culture. Nashville is going to be a very worthy addition to MLS.”
Nashville will be the third MLS side in the Southeast, following recent additions of both Orlando City (2015) and Atlanta United (2017). A CONCACAF Gold Cup match in July between United States and Panama attracted over 47,000 fans. Later that month, a state-record 56,232 fans attended a game between English Premier League duo Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur.
“This is a great day for Nashville and the result of a true team effort from so many people across our wonderful city,” said Barry. “Nashville’s soccer fans have supported the movement for a Major League Soccer club from the moment the bid was launched, and John Ingram and his partners, the MLS2Nashville Committee, and local leadership worked together to do what was right for our city. I’m so proud that Major League Soccer has welcomed Nashville to the league. The team and its world-class stadium at the Fairgrounds will be economic engines for business across our community and a place where diverse parts of the community can come together with common purpose.”
In addition to Mayor Barry, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, who was in attendance at Wednesday’s event, assisted in the push to land the team, hosting MLS officials and corporate leaders at the Tennessee Residence.
“Tennessee has truly grown into a global brand, which makes us a terrific fit for a sport that’s followed by fans around the world,” said Governor Haslam. “MLS has made a great choice and I want to thank everyone who worked so hard. This is another feather in the cap for Nashville and will only add to the growing economic environment in Tennessee.”
Details such as the new club’s debut season, club name, kit, colours and logo will be announced at a later date.