NASHVILLE, Tennessee – Now that Nashville Soccer Club have a name, a crest and a brand identity, what’s next for the 2020 Major League Soccer expansion side?
According to CEO Ian Ayre, the focus will now primarily turn to hiring a head coach, filling out the rest of the technical staff and signing more players to the roster that will take the field at Nissan Stadium in 2020, and eventually at the club’s new soccer-specific venue in 2021.
“I think it’s a very big day for the franchise,” Ayre said at the club’s brand unveil event at Marathon Music Works last week. “It’s almost like planting the flag in the ground and we move forward from here. There will be a lot of other big days, even this year beyond signing our first players, announcing our coach, launching our first jersey in MLS, all of those things. They all have their place in the journey that we go on. Today is a massive day, and we’ve planted that flag now and we need to carry it forward.”
The club already has many pieces in place as it plays in the USL Championship this year on the way to MLS in 2020. Former Sporting KC assistant technical director Mike Jacobs has already been hired as the club’s general manager, and Nashville has already signed two players to MLS contracts in Mexican striker Daniel Rios and Tottenham Hotspur academy product Cameron Lancaster. Both have been loaned to the USL side for the 2019 season.
Jacobs also recently brought in former Stellar Group agent Ally Mackay as his assistant GM and former MLS player Chance Myers as chief scout. All of this existing infrastructure and staff will only help Nashville SC as they begin to see their MLS future take shape.
“When you have a USL team, you can kind of put on all of the training programs, get the technical staff in place, figure out what players you want, get your ticket sellers and all your front office people up and going,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said at the Nashville event. “They’re running down a highway, and you’re just putting the accelerator on when you get to Major League Soccer.”
A number of models exist for Nashville to follow: 2019 expansion entrants FC Cincinnati have assembled a roster by signing many players from their 2018 USL roster, as well as utilizing the MLS SuperDraft and Expansion Draft.
For Nashville, the upcoming USL season will offer a chance for players already on the team to make their mark and earn their way to an MLS contract.
“Our general manager Mike Jacobs put it best in an interview a while ago: Everybody who plays for our USL team should feel like they’re in American Idol for soccer, because they all have a chance,” Ayre said. “We’re not going to turn somebody away if they really perform. That’s not just about the guys who have MLS contracts, it’s about anyone who plays for this team. If they can show the technical staff that they’ve got enough, then the opportunity is there for them.”