Nashville businessman John Ingram to lead MLS expansion bid

Nashville skyline

Nashville’s bid for an MLS team has a new backer, as it was announced on Wednesday that John R. Ingram, chairman of Ingram Industries Inc., has emerged as the lead investor for the city’s proposal for an MLS expansion team.

The news comes less than a week after the league acknowledged Nashville as one of 10 cities that have publicly expressed interest in securing an MLS expansion team.

MLS announced last week the process for its next round of expansion, with league Commissioner Don Garber revealing last Thursday that teams 25 and 26 will be announced during the second or third quarter of 2017, at an expansion fee of $150 million each, and begin MLS play by 2020. Teams 27 and 28 will be announced at a later date, at a price to be determined later. Owners interested in starting an expansion club must submit applications to the league by Jan. 31, 2017.

Based in Nashville, Ingram Industries Inc. operates Ingram Marine Group, one of the largest barge operations in the US, and Ingram Content Group, which offers services in book publishing. According to Forbes, Ingram Industries took in $2.3 billion in revenue last year.

Ingram is a member of the board of trustees of Vanderbilt University and is the son of noted Nashville philanthropist Martha Ingram.

“Nashville has a truly passionate fan base demonstrated by terrific attendance at national team matches,” Ingram said in a prepared statement. “We’re a diverse, international city with a vibrant youth soccer scene and booming population. We’re also a proven major league sports town. Nashville is ready for the world’s biggest sport played at the highest level.”

Nashville was named as one of 13 host cities for the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup on Monday. The city will host a US national team group stage match at Nissan Stadium, home of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.

Nashville SC is currently preparing to begin play in USL in 2018. The club is run by former Soccer United Marketing executive Court Jeske, who told The Tennessean that Nashville SC is “supportive of any movement to bring Major League Soccer to Nashville.” Soccer United Marketing is a commercial arm of MLS.

Nashville businessman Bill Hagerty in August created the Nashville MLS Steering Committee, a group of two dozen local business and political leaders that is pushing for an MLS team in the city. The Tennessean reported that Hagerty and the Steering Committee will support Nashville’s MLS bid, but that Ingram and his investor group will be formally submitting Nashville’s application for MLS expansion ahead of the Jan. 31 deadline. 

A bill was introduced into the Tennessee legislature earlier this week that would help fund a potential Nashville MLS stadium.