Editorial (October 6, 2017) – Earlier this year, Major League Soccer had their first large scale league expansion application process in years. Twelve cities across the United States applied for expansion. It has been anticipated that sometime in the 2017 calendar year two of these cities will be awarded MLS expansion franchises.
MLS To Nashville Expansion Heating Up
For those of you living under a rock, MLS to Nashville got some major momentum this week. Earlier this week, Jeff Rueter reported that MLS to Nashville was going to happen. That got backed down over the following 24 hours. Still, multiple reputable outlets have reported that Nashville’s stock is up with league higher ups.
An update: while my sources are “confident” Nashville will earn spot, MLS not making final decision until December. Nothing official today.
The Music City was seen by many to be a dark horse for MLS expansion. The city isn’t getting a USL team until 2018, so we don’t have a sense of the fan base or attendance like we do in Sacramento, Cincinnati, etc.
The league however has been looking to expand into non-traditional and non-crowded markets. Atlanta has been a diamond in the rough for MLS this year. Nashville only has two top level professional sports teams (the Tennessee Titans and Nashville Predators). From June to September, there’s no pro sports team in town. A Nashville SC could fill that void and be successful.
New Soccer-Specific Stadium Developments:
One bit of real news we got was on the soccer-specific stadium front. Don Garber and company have been on the record that getting a stadium location and getting it funded are a huge factor. Earlier this week, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry and the ownership group announced a plan for a soccer-specific stadium.
The deal involved a plot of land on the much rumored Nashville Fairgrounds, just four miles Southeast of downtown. The plan is for a stadium with approximately a 27,500 capacity, which would be one of the largest SSS in the league.
The $250 million plan will be paid for by $200 million in revenue bonds, $25 million in investment from the MLS ownership group, and $25 million in Metro general obligation bonds. That means, if the deal comes to fruition, the stadium will only be paid for 10% by public money.
What Comes Next:
Having a stadium deal in place with the finances public is great. The fact that only 10% of the cost is going to come from public money (which helps the city and county). Everything’s in MLS’s hands at this point, but Nashville’s stock is certainly up given the recent news.
I still think the first expansion bid is Sacramento Republic FC’s to lose. They’ve done everything an expansion team could be asked to do (other than say they’re spending $15 million a year on players). They’re the only expansion hopeful of the twelve that has shovels in the ground.
After that, it’s anyone’s guess. Nashville now has the fold with their stadium deal. The league shouldn’t ignore the atmosphere that Cincinnati has created with FC Cincinnati. The one thing that hurts Nashville is the lack of pro soccer attendance data, given that Nashville SC doesn’t start play till next year.
The Music City is absolutely a contender for the second expansion bid. We’ll have to see if they can beat out Cincinnati, Tampa, etc.