A group of Nashville business leaders are coming together in an effort to bring Major League Soccer to the Music City.
As detailed in a report in The Tennessean, the 22-member Nashville MLS Organizing Committee formally announced its creation on Tuesday. The efforts are being led by Nashville businessman and investor Bill Hagerty, the former commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development under Republican Gov. Bill Haslam and a possible Republican candidate for Tennessee governor in 2018.
MLS announced earlier this year that it intends to eventually expand to 28 teams. The league currently has 20 clubs and is set to add Atlanta United in 2017, Minnesota United in 2017 or 2018, LAFC in 2018 and a potential Miami franchise at some point in the future. That leaves four more spots for future expansion, with Sacramento, St. Louis, Detroit, Cincinnati, San Antonio and San Diego among those competing for the final spots.
The Nashville MLS Organizing Committee includes leaders from some of Nashville’s largest corporations, including the chairman of Nissan North America, the president of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans and the president of the NHL’s Nashville Predators, among others.
“Our optimism is very, very high about this,” Hagerty told The Tennessean. “The voice of support that we’ve seen from the leadership of this community has been really, really strong."
The United Soccer League announced in May that it had awarded Nashville an expansion team, Nashville FC, set to begin play in 2018.
Hagerty said he supports the efforts of the USL group and that it has an open invitation to join the Nashville MLS Organizing Committee. He believes, however, that the city must begin competing directly for an MLS team now rather than working its way up the American soccer pyramid.
“We felt like the time is now," he said, "and if we’re going to do it, we need to go directly for it."
Hagerty indicated that he’s been in touch with possible “international and domestic” investors in a potential Nashville MLS team, and that the group has identified several potential stadium sites in the urban with the city and private developers.
Nashville Mayor Megan Barry applauded the group’s efforts to bring MLS to Tennessee.
“We have a shared vision,” Hagerty said. “We’ve got a mayor’s office that is very engaged and motivated to make it happen. We’ve got strong interest from investors. All the pieces, I think, are coming together.”
Click here for more on the Nashville MLS Organizing Committee, including a full list of the group’s members.