NEW YORK — About 12 miles outside of Nashville's city center, construction on the future of Nashville SC is nearing completion.
The club has been working on the site that will house their academy, co-locating with the prestigious Currey Ingram Academy in Brentwood, Tennessee. On Monday, Nashville SC announced the official launch of the academy, naming Jamie Smith as their first academy director.
Nashville's academy will play their first matches as the Under-12 side competes in Generation adidas Cup over Thanksgiving weekend, while their U-13, U-14 and U-15 teams will kick off in the 2020/21 season.
“I don’t think anybody, including ownership, would imagine anything better than, however many years down the line, a kid from Tennessee pulling on a Nashville SC shirt," CEO Ian Ayre told MLSsoccer.com while in New York City to attend the Expansion Priority Draft at the AT&T MLS Studios in midtown Manhattan.
"That has to be a dream. Supporters always love a local guy. That has to be one of our core objectives. If we can achieve that, and we absolutely believe we will, we’ll absolutely hit the jackpot. It feels right when you’re trying to build something so community-based, so uniquely Nashville, having someone pull the jersey on from the city would be awesome.”
Jamie Smith played under Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith with the Colorado Rapids, where the pair won MLS Cup in 2010. He had previously been the academy director for FC Delco in Pennsylvania.
"I am thrilled to have the opportunity to launch the Nashville SC Academy and look forward to working with the youth of the region, along with the established clubs and their directors to create a clear path to the professional ranks right in our home state,” said Smith in a club release. “The philosophy of our academy is to prepare players for the professional level – making sure the individual player can adapt to the different situations in the game of soccer. We want to create an environment where the players are getting the education on and off the pitch that is required to succeed as a top professional soccer player."
We're excited to announce the Nashville SC Academy and the appointment of Academy Director Jamie Smith, who will help build an elite, fully-funded youth soccer program that will serve the Nashville region and the state of Tennessee.#BandTogetherNSC | https://t.co/7UtXfkiVBS pic.twitter.com/2EJN8VuRh8— x-Nashville SC (@NashvilleSC) October 14, 2019
“Every market is different," GM Mike Jacobs said. "When you look at the most fertile markets in the country in regards to youth soccer in the country – New York, Southern California, North Texas – we’re a different market in the state of Tennessee. We have to do things differently. The facilities we’ll have will be like no other market, situated on a campus as majestic as it is, as well as the academic components.”
LAFC have yet to graduate an academy product into the first team, while NYCFC got their first taste of Homegrown success in the first team this year, with James Sands playing a significant role for Dome Torrent's first-place club.
“You can look historically to see what states and cities populate players to Major League Soccer," Jacobs said. "A challenge we have is try to accelerate that process in the state of Tennessee. For us, being able to identify good players in our own territory before we start scouting outside of our territory.
"You’re going to see a very active and proactive approach from our academy staff to try and identify players in Tennessee, but also you’ll see markets similar to ourselves like Seattle who have done so well with the academy, our ability to recruit players outside of our own markets," Jacobs continued. "You’ll see us like Seattle, like Sporting KC, like Philadelphia — a very dogged approach in trying to identify top players not just in our territory, but outside as well.”
Though they won't see the fruits of their labor with the MLS squad for some time, the formation of the academy means that Homegrown talent representing the club is one step closer.
“It’s crucial in a league where you have a salary cap, all these little twists and turns of how you acquire and develop players, being able to develop your own has a massive advantage financially," Ayre said. "It has a massive advance in terms of the quality you can put on the field.”