Wednesday afternoon saw MLS officials descend upon Nashville, Tennessee and anyone who remembers Atlanta in 2014 knew exactly what was coming.
Welcome to MLS, Nashville.
The Tennessee capital boat-raced (I swear that’s the last mention of boat or Barco in this piece, rest easy) the rest of the nation over the last 18 months and will be the 24th franchise for MLS. When and where they’ll play their first ever match remains a mystery however.
What’s ultimately impressive is the way the region has continued to morph into a powerhouse of the sport.
The South’s growth in the game is hitting new heights, but to pick up the story right here is to do a disservice to the history in the youth and college game that has a long and successful history here.
Now the region can lay claim to footholds in every level from the bottom of the ladder to the top and as far as MLS goes, Atlanta has thrown down a rather large gauntlet to future franchises and Nashville will be expected to jump in and compete. They’ll be doing things similar to Orlando and Minnesota – starting as a Division 2 club and then jumping up to MLS – though Nashville will only be doing one year of USL before making the jump.
Both Orlando and Minnesota were established clubs with history and success. Nashville will be sort of a Frankenstein of Atlanta’s ‘starting from scratch’ combined with part of a walking start with a year of USL. It is not perfect but the city of Nashville has already overcome the odds once just to land a team so what’s growing a team from scratch then jumping into a rapidly growing and evolving league?
Their time in USL will not be a cakewalk by any means. The league is getting stronger and better every year and they’ll be surrounded by teams ready to knock their heads off if they get the chance. No one is about to volunteer to go play in Charleston against the Battery for grins and giggles. They’ll get all they can handle as well from a North Carolina FC team that just left NASL for USL and The Charlotte Independence as well as whatever Balrog Atlanta will try to trot out in 2018. Defending champions are just up the road in Louisville as well.
Should they get matched up regionally in the U.S. Open Cup, they could draw the defending PDL Champion Charlotte Eagles.
The NPSL could visit them in their own town with Inter Nashville, Chattanooga FC or even a renewed Atlanta Silverbacks squad that gave Charleston all they could handle last year.
The point is that the South has been good and getting better for a while, and that’s not even getting into Florida and whether or not you consider them the South. The state has its own history of growth and success.
Nashville was center-stage Wednesday and the idea of a new team with that fanbase and their history of jumping on with something fun sounds…well, fun.
We’re still a few months away from actual USL games being played in Nashville but they’re demanding attention. Atlanta caught everyone’s eye last year and now Nashville is standing on the edge of the battlefield. Just over the horizon is a whole slew of clubs big and small and they’ll all gladly grab the microphone andmake a statement:
Welcome to the future of the game.
Welcome to the South.