NEW YORK – Just as the club have been saying all along, it's going to be a big ol' party in Nashville on Saturday.
Nashville SC have surpassed 50,000 tickets sold for their inaugural MLS match against Atlanta United at Nissan Stadium on February 29 (8 pm ET | FOX, FOX Deportes | MLS LIVE on DAZN in Canada) and aren't quite done yet. The club opened the remaining upper tier sections in the 69,143-seated venue, home of the NFL's Tennessee Titans, as demand for tickets continues to rise as gameday nears.
“We just opened the final sections of the stadium," CEO Ian Ayre told reporters at MLS media day. "Who knows, right? Weather looks good for Saturday. We’re over 50,000, any number is possible.”
Some Atlanta United supporters, quick to poke a potential new rival, like to point out that their fans will help make up the number, though Ayre says the away support currently makes up around 1,500 of the 50,000 sold.
While Saturday is looking quite promising for Nashville, the club's leadership are looking well beyond opening day. The challenge now will be to retain as many of those fans from opening day as regular supporters.
“It’s the same for any team, whether you’re an expansion team or an established team in the league," Ayre said of the challenge. "Particularly in a city like Nashville with so much going on, you can’t expect people to show up. You have to earn their trust in the team. That’ll be about putting on a great performance – we won’t win every game, but hope we win plenty – and putting on a great show.”
Ayre and his colleagues have been focused on their home matches being a hugely entertaining event, blending the city's core values. Prior to their home debut, alternative rock band Judah and the Lion will perform -- including Nashville's club anthem. Charles Esten and Lzzy Hale will also feature.
It is Music City, after all. That kind of spectacle is something the club have been focused on, as Ayre, GM Mike Jacobs and others around the club have spoke about creating an experience that's uniquely Nashville.
“The Predators are a good example," Ayre explained. "I don’t think everybody who goes there is a crazy hockey enthusiast, it’s more about a combination of great hockey, a great show and a great venue. That’s what we aspire to. We aspire to put on a great show in Nashville every week, then on the road, make our fans feel proud for who we are. If we do that, the audience will keep coming.”
When the referee blows the whistle on Saturday to kick off Nashville's inaugural match, it'll mark a milestone of the club truly turning from concept to reality. After a long process leading to that, starting for Ayre nearly two years ago when he took the job, the wait is almost over.
“It’s going to be exciting," Ayre said. "With a great audience in a big moment against a great team, anything’s possible. It’ll definitely be a great show.”