As part of Major League Soccer's return to the field with a World Cup-style tournament in Orlando starting next month, expansion team Nashville SC will be swapping conferences.
The league confirmed that the Music City club will move from the Western Conference to the Eastern Conference for the remainder of the 2020 season beginning with the MLS is Back Tournament. The switch was made in order to ensure even numbers in each of the six groups for the 26-team tournament.
“Moving to the Eastern Conference is great for Nashville SC and our fans,” said Mike Jacobs, Nashville SC general manager in a team release. "Soccer is so tribal, and the opportunity to play this 2020 season against regional rivals in proximity to Nashville is really important for our club on and off the pitch.”
For the MLS is Back Tournament at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, the 26 MLS clubs will be drawn into six groups. The Eastern Conference will have three groups, one of six teams and two of four teams. Western Conference teams will also be split into three groups, each comprising four teams.
Speaking on a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Jacobs said it was a move that made sense for the remainder of 2020.
“When you look at where we are in this abbreviated season, getting a chance to have more regional proximity helps with things like recovery time between matches and minimizing travel," he said. "What happens in the future remains to be seen. Look, it makes sense for us to be in the Eastern Conference for a variety of reasons."
As to whether the move could be made permanent, MLS Commissioner Don Garber insisted it was too early to make any decision, particularly with four new clubs joining the league over the next two years.
“It’s too premature to talk about the permanency of it," Garber told reporters on a media call. "It certainly makes sense for the tournament and the logical move was Nashville. We are an expanding league, we’re having teams come in from different regions of the country. There will be realignment at some point in our league as we continue to look at expansion through 30 teams, but the decision for now is simply for how we’re going to manage it in the tournament.”