NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The chanting started more than 30 minutes before the big moment.
As a crowd co-mingled – Nashville's MLS expansion group, Major League Soccer executives, various Nashville dignitaries and a slew of soccer fans pushing the total to 1,100 guests at the Country Music Hall of Fame – the Nashville Roadies supporters group led boisterous, rat-a-tat rounds of "Glory, Music City" (to the tune of "We're Not Gonna Take It").
After an introduction by MLS legend Taylor Twellman, and a highlight reel with crushing bass, MLS Commissioner Don Garber took his place at the podium.
"How great is this?" he asked, to raucous cheers.
After walking the audience through the development of Nashville's bid, Garber finally said the words, formally recognizing the city's successful campaign to join Major League Soccer and triggering a standing ovation that drowned out all else for nearly 45 seconds.
Garber was followed by Nashville Soccer Holdings, LLC lead investor John R. Ingram, chairman of Ingram Industries, who quipped, "Damn right, we accept this!"
Ingram spoke of how there exist limited opportunities to launch a major-league sports franchise, and he remained unsure this ascension could've happened anywhere else. Representatives from both MLS and the Nashville bid acknowledged the group opened the process as a long shot among the 12 cities to formally submit in January.
"This was something that was a year in the making," said Nashville Mayor Megan Barry. "You heard the Commissioner say that we were not even thinking about Nashville, but you all stepped up and showed you could do it and you are a soccer city."
Added Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam: "I told the Commissioner that this was a sure bet. You see the way that Nashville rallied to the cause. I'm going to salute the Mayor. The end result will last generations, and it's a big deal for all of Tennessee."
Nashville adds another market in a budding southeast region of MLS, which has been bolstered with significant launches of expansion teams in Orlando (2015) and Atlanta (2017). The city's love for the NFL's Tennessee Titans and NHL's Nashville Predators has been well-documented, and Garber said he believes Nashville to be "a diverse community that shows a true passion for the game" and that there is no doubt that it is a city on the rise.
The Predators' Stanley Cup run caught the league's attention, and Mayor Barry indicated that stacking the 100,000-plus fans at a pair of summer soccer contests atop that rush made it feel like the expansion bid had pivoted toward possibility. Just months later, Wednesday's event capped the unexpected conclusion to the process.
"The Commissioner called me," Ingram said. "So now we're here, we're excited about what we've done and we've got a whole lot more to do."
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