MLS confirms Nashville expansion team as 24th franchise

Don Garber Eddie George Megan Barry Bill Haslam MLS Nashville
Andrew Nelles
MLS commissioner Don Garber and Nashville Mayor Megan Barry were in attendance as the league's next franchise went to Music City

Major League Soccer has awarded an expansion team to Nashville, the league confirmed Wednesday.

Nashville had been tabbed as one of four finalists — along with Sacramento, Cincinnati and Detroit — for the next two expansion slots, and the league's 24th franchise was all but finalized Tuesday when MLS announced a news conference would be held Wednesday at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Nashville Soccer Holdings LLC will own the club, with the investment group also featuring Minnesota Vikings owners Mark, Zygi and Leonard Wilf and the Turner family of Nashville's MarketStreet Enterprises. The club will play at a new 27,500-seat soccer stadium at the Fairgrounds Nashville in the city's Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood.

MLS commissioner Don Garber was joined by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, Tennessee Titans legend Eddie George and Ingram for Wednesday's event, which sealed a meteoric rise for the market from expansion underdog to the league's next franchise.

Officials did not confirm, however, whether Nashville will begin play in the 2019 or 2020 season.

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"Nashville is a rising city with a passionate soccer fan base, a dedicated ownership group and civic leaders that truly believe in this sport," Garber said in a news release. "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."

Don Garber MLS

Nashville MLS

Los Angeles FC will kick off as the 23rd MLS club in 2018, while David Beckham's long-gestating Miami franchise will be greenlit if ownership can finalize plans for a soccer-specific stadium.

With Nashville locked in, MLS plans to award its next team to Sacramento, Cincinnati or Detroit in the coming weeks. The two markets that miss out will be eligible for the next round of expansion, along with bidding cities that were previously eliminated from contention this time around: Charlotte, Indianapolis, Phoenix, Raleigh, San Antonio, San Diego, St. Louis and Tampa Bay.

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MLS announced in December 2015 that the league's goal is to reach 28 franchises — with Nashville now an official piece of that puzzle.

"This is a landmark day for Nashville and for all of the loyal and ardent soccer advocates in our state and our region," Ingram said. "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."