Photos by Wes Sparkmon/Williamson Source and Todd Bilbrey/Nashville FC
The USL has found its home in Nashville, and after a month-plus of speculation it was unveiled Friday that Nashville FC would be the team fielded in 2018.
In three years, Nashville FC has grown from a simple idea of Chris Jones, president of the NPSL franchise, into a team now primed for professional expansion. Moving from the NPSL to the USL can’t be looked on lightly, and it’s an accomplishment as to what’s been built in the city of Nashville.
“I think the best word is surreal,” Jones said after the press conference Friday afternoon. “We had a plan that we thought in three years we’d have a full-blown NPSL team. Now, three years later we’re going into the pro ranks, it’s pretty surreal.”
In just three short years, that idea has taken hold in not only Jones but the fans as well, with the Roadies growing steadily year by year. The Nashville supporters section led Friday by Mayor Megan Barry, filed into Bridgestone with chants of Nashville’s on the march again.
The moment had arrived, and after all the dust had settled, the agreement between Nashville FC and DMD Soccer, the ownership group awarded the USL franchise, had been accepted and the move was a go.
“We’re going pro. It’s unbelievable,” Marcus Whitney, president of Jumpstart Foundry, and one-third of the DMD group. “We did it together, the whole way through. You know, we did it the right way. Nashville FC was built on a foundation of community, and I feel like we’ve taken a really good first step into the professional ranks. That’s what’s exciting to me, everybody’s here.”
Whitney, along with David Dill, president and COO of LifePoint Health, and Chris Redhage, co-founder of Provider Trust, worked mercilessly over the past year and a half to build what culminated on Friday. It was a process that all began when certain professional clubs elsewhere expressed interest in a move to Nashville, a market untapped at the time.
Coming to grips with that idea, the three put in place a plan to build local and build on the foundations of what had already begun back in 2013.
“We intend on doing this with the community every step of the way,” Whitney went on to say. “It’s an honor and a privilege. It’s humbling to be in a position to serve in this way.”
It’s all about the people who’ve stood there since day one, the people who’ve taken hold of this team, that have made it their soccer team, that’s what put Nashville FC in the place it stands. In working for the club in the past year, it’s the people who’ve volunteered hours to the cause on weekends and weekdays to promote and show what this city has to offer, and it’s a lot of talent, both on and off the field.
“How do we build a professional soccer organization that’s of Nashville, right?” Redhage said. “There’s a lot of talent in this city alone, so we’re excited to build the front office, then go get coaches and ultimately some players that’ll help us win.”
Mayor Megan Berry discussed excitement, excitement in building the future home of the team before 2018, and building an organization that’s ready to compete from day one in the USL.
In the NPSL, Nashville FC had solid rivalries with in-state rivals Chattanooga and Knoxville, as well as out of state rivals like Birmingham, in the I-65 Cup which commences Saturday, and New Orleans.
Moving forward, the rivalries get a bit bigger, and a bit more intense. In the USL, Nashville will face the likes of Cincinnati FC, which drew 23,000 to a game in recent weeks, as well as Louisville and St. Louis, among others.
“That’s what I’m excited about. It’s about Nashville building a culture, across the city, a unified soccer culture that rivals the best soccer cultures in this country,” Whitney said. “The rivalries are going to be incredible. I think the Louisville rivalry will be intense, to say the least.”
With nearly 20 months left before a team even takes the field, the future is on finishing strong in NPSL before turning eyes towards building the organization, the stadium and the front office before 2018.
“We still have 20 months, and there’s still a lot of people who want to see soccer played here in Nashville,” David Dill said after the final photo-ops. “It now just kind of opens the top off of it. I think now we’re ready to run and run really fast, it feels great.”
Nashville FC plays Birmingham at Vanderbilt Stadium on July 2nd to close out the NPSL regular season, with the I-65 Cup on the line. Tickets can be purchased here, and are only nine dollars online in advance and 12 dollars at the gate.