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Excitement for Nashville SC, MLS builds to a crescendo in the Music City

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — With just two weeks separating Nashville SC from its MLS debut against Atlanta United on Feb. 29 (8 pm ET | FOX), anticipation is building in Music City, bolstered even more by the trade for 2019 MLS Best-XI centerback Walker Zimmerman and a resolution to a stadium construction impasse.

And when the city's MLS era officially kicks off, an attendance record for soccer in the state of Tennessee could be in reach.

“We’re pretty close to 40,000 tickets for opening day at the moment,” said Nashville SC Chief Executive Officer Ian Ayre.” I’d say in the last 10 days, we’ve really seen a surge, so the numbers change dramatically day-to-day. We’ve seen season tickets pick up today. I don’t know what the final numbers were today, but we definitely saw people saying, ‘OK let’s get involved, let’s go out and buy them.’ I think we’re pretty much at 40,000 as of today, and that will just continue. We’ve seen real energy for the game.”

The all-time mark is 56,232 for a Manchester City-Tottenham Hotspur friendly in 2017. Earlier that year, a then-state record 47,000 watched the US national team at the Concacaf Gold Cup at Nissan Stadium, which NSC will call home until moving into its purpose-built stadium.

The potential for continued excitement about the sport is what led MLS to Nashville.

“This is a community that really was representing the new America that is our brand,” said MLS commissioner Don Garber. “It’s diverse, it’s inclusive.”

The two-plus years since announcement of the club’s entry into the league in December of 2017 has felt like much longer to some fans, and a distant memory to owner John Ingram. Not that he's had much time to reminisce, now that the date he’s been waiting for is within reach.

“In just over two weeks, the dream becomes a reality,” he said. “It’s exciting. There’s been a huge amount of focus, and I think Ian and his team have created some really fun, interesting ways to engage with the broader city.”

Those ideas remain under wraps for the time being, with Ingram and Ayre focused on bringing surprises to their fans and their city. You could argue the first of those came this week, when the club secured the services of Zimmerman for the Boys in Gold.

“The thing that’s stood out to me from the beginning is how important culture is, and creating culture,” Zimmerman told fans at a club event Thursday in the city. “I’m excited to help create that culture, but a lot of it comes down to the fans. The passion’s going to be there.”