The battle for Nashville pro soccer took a step forward today, as a group of area investors was awarded a USL expansion franchise, contingent on securing some sort of stadium deal for the 2018 season.
We reported earlier this month about the two minor leagues exploring a new Nashville pro soccer team, and the USL was first out of the gate with an announced expansion team to be owned by DMD Soccer, an investment group that includes David Dill, the President and Chief Operating Officer of LifePoint Health; Marcus Whitney, the President of Jumpstart Foundry, a seed-stage healthcare innovation fund; and Christopher Redhage, co-founder of ProviderTrust.
“It’s an incredible opportunity to bring professional soccer to Nashville, and I am excited to partner with the USL, Marcus and Chris to make this vision a reality,” Dill said.
“We are very proud and excited to welcome Nashville to the USL and look forward to a very rewarding partnership with David, Marcus, Christopher and the entire DMD Soccer team,” said Alec Papadakis, Chief Executive Officer of the USL. “We have long identified Nashville as a USL destination due to its economic vibrancy and growing millennial and international populations. DMD Soccer group met all of our tenets of strong local ownership groups, achievable soccer-specific stadium plans, and a passionate soccer fan base.”
Friendlies have had some success in Nashville: The U.S. Women’s National Team drew the largest crowd to attend a USA women’s match in the state of Tennessee (25,363 fans) on March 6 at Nissan Stadium in Nashville. That followed a state-record crowd of 44,835 who saw the U.S. Men’s National Team defeat Guatemala at Nissan Stadium on July 3, 2015.
The issue: a suitable facility. The USL team wants to launch in 2018, but so far there are no plans for a new soccer stadium nor plans to play at an existing facility. There was early talk about a temporary venue at Ted Rhodes Park for a USL team, but that apparently is on hold. From The Tennessean:
Whitney declined to name sites that the group is exploring — “We are open to anything,” he said — and made clear that it would seek help from the mayor’s office on the stadium front.
“We want to work with the mayor’s office, and we’re going to let the mayor take the lead on that,” Whitney said. “The mayor just put forth a budget. There are many, many things that she and her administration are working on right now, but we are excited to have an opportunity to work with the mayor.”
“Anybody who is going to bring a professional team to a city is going to partner with the mayor,” he later added. “It would just be silly not to do that. We’re excited that Mayor Barry is excited about soccer.”
Still looming: the NASL, which reportedly continues to explore a Nashville team. An NASL investor group has toured First Tennessee Park and Nissan Stadium, home of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans. Nissan Stadium may be a tad large for NASL play, and the Sounds ownership may not be thrilled about sharing First Tennessee Park — though Triple-A ballparks hosting minor-league soccer is turning into a thing. And, in theory, a NASL team could begin play in 2017 — something that may appeal to city officials.
Image of USL game action courtesy Sacramento FC.
RELATED STORIES: NASL, USL Pitch Nashville Pro Soccer Expansion