It’s official: Major League Soccer is bringing a top-level team to Nashville.
Calling it a “city on the rise,” MLS commissioner Don Garber made the announcement at the Country Music Hall of Fame on Wednesday afternoon.
“The success of our league … is driven by innovative and dedicate ownership, by world-class soccer stadiums, by visionary managements and culturally diverse communities with a true passion for the game,” Garber said. “There’s no doubt that we have all of that here, and more, in the city of Nashville.”
Nashville has landed the expansion franchise in what many observers consider a come-from-behind victory. Until the past couple months, the city had an outside chance to join the MLS.
"Make no mistake about it, Nashville was a long-shot at best," Taylor Twellman, a soccer analyst for ESPN, said in opening Wednesday's announcement.
Yet several key pieces came into place — including a growing and well-funded ownership group, evidence of fan support at several international soccer games hosted at Nissan Stadium, and support from Nashville's mayor and Tennessee's governor. Bolstering that was the Metro Council's approval to finance a $275-million stadium at the Fairgrounds.
Like most of the hundreds in attendance, the head of Nashville's ownership group, John Ingram, wore a Nashville MLS scarf to the podium. In his remarks, he alluded to the city's large international community, which the organizing committee previously touted as a reason to bring a team here.
"Nashville's a place where we now speak over 100 different languages, but guess what — we all speak soccer," Ingram said. “And we’re about to become a lot more fluent in the language of the beautiful game.”
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) December 20, 2017
Some specifics — about when the team will launch, its corporate sponsors and more specifics on the stadium plan — are yet to be determined.
Gov. Bill Haslam touted the awarded franchise as an economic boon not just for Nashville, but for all of Tennessee.
“When you said that this club is about to be Nashville's team, I'd say you're aspiring too low. Let's make this Tennessee's team,” Haslam said.
The MLS, meanwhile, has been expected to announce a second expansion team. There was no indication of such news today, but the other declared finalists are Cincinnati, Detroit and Sacramento.