Nashville SC: Everything you need to know about the MLS and USL
MLS Commissioner Don Garber announces MLS’s decision to expand to Nashville during a special announcement at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017.
Nashville was awarded a Major League Soccer expansion franchise Wednesday. What does that mean for the Nashville SC entry into the United Soccer League?
The USL team begins play in March 2018 at First Tennessee Park; the MLS team will begin after that — either in 2019 or 2020.
What happens to the USL team when the MLS team begins play? They are two different franchises. If the MLS team begins play in 2020 it could continue to operate the USL team (as done in some other MLS markets e.g. NY, Orlando, SLC, Seattle, Portland, LA), or the USL team could be sold and relocated to another city or disbanded.
When are the seasons? The MLS and USL are from March to October. Playoffs are in November. The MLS plays 34 games. The USL will start playing 34 games in 2018.
Who will the natural rivals be? In the MLS the nearby cities are Atlanta United FC, Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City. The close cities in the USL are Louisville, Cincinnati and St. Louis, which have very strong and popular USL clubs.
How many teams make the playoffs? Twelve in the MLS — the top six in each conference (Eastern and Western). Sixteen in the USL — the top eight in each conference.
Will matches be broadcast on television and radio? The MLS has television contracts with ESPN, Fox Sports, NBC Sports and AFN Sports. The franchise will work out a radio deal with a local station. Nashville SC is in discussions with several local media outlets about TV and radio coverage. The USL also has a partnership with ESPN, which broadcasts select games throughout the season.
What is the size of the rosters? MLS club rosters are comprised of up to 30 players with 18 designated as game-day players. USL rosters have 25 players with 18 who dress on game day.
What is the salary range for players? In the MLS, salaries range from the highest paid, Orlando City’s Ricardo Kaká at $7 million annually, who recently retired, to a minimum of $53,000. The top players in the USL make in the low six figures and there is no minimum.
Will there be an emphasis on signing players with local ties? Too early to know for the MLS franchise. Yes for the USL. Players will first come from the city, state and region. Beyond that, players will come from across the globe.
Fans celebrate Major League Soccer coming to Nashville Larry McCormack / The Tennessean
Do USL players come from the MLS or could they be headed there? Free agents from across the globe are recruited. Some will have played in the MLS and some could have the potential to eventually play on that level.
Who are the best players in both leagues? In the MLS it’s Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore from Toronto along with Portland’s Diego Valeri and New York City FC captain David Villa. The best in the USL are Didier Drogba (Phoenix), Omar Bravo (Phoenix) and Joe Cole (Tampa Bay).
Who is the USL coach? Gary Smith, a native of Harlow, England. He led the Colorado Rapids to the 2010 MLS Cup championship. His playing career began at Arsenal and ended as a professional after being cut short by injury.
What are the team colors? We don’t yet know for the MLS squad. The USL team will wear blue and gold.
Will sponsors’ names be on the uniform? Yes for both.
Who owns the franchises? John Ingram, chairman of Ingram Industries, controlling owner of Nashville Soccer Club; Wilf family, owners of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings; the Turner family of MarketStreet Enterprises
Are games played in inclement weather? Matches generally go on in the same conditions as football. Games are played as long as there is no lightning in the area.
With USL games being played on a baseball field at First Tennessee Park, what are the dimensions? 72 yards in width by 115 yards in length. FIFA allows fields to be up to 100×130 yards.
Will there be a connection with youth soccer in the area? Yes. There already is a partnership with the Tennessee State Soccer Association including a statewide 12-under program.
Will the USL team play games other than in the USL season? Yes. Nashville SC also will compete in the U.S. Open Cup, where USL clubs play against other USL and MLS clubs in a single-game elimination tournament.
Will Nashville SC U23 return next season? No.
Nashville has been named as the 24th Major League Soccer franchise, in the competition’s latest expansion.
Nashville already has two major sports franchises – the Tennessee Titans in American football’s NFL, and NHL ice hockey team Nashville Predators.
In July, a friendly in the city between Premier League football teams Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur attracted a crowd of 56,232.
The MLS franchise will play in a new, 27,500-seat stadium.
“Nashville is a rising city with a passionate soccer fanbase, a dedicated ownership group and civic leaders that truly believe in this sport,” said MLS commissioner Don Garber, who announced the news at the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Nashville was initially named in January among 12 cities vying to secure a franchise in a league that began in 1996 with 10 teams.
A decision is yet to be made on when the team will begin to play.