MLS Commissioner visits Nashville, talks expansion

(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – With the U.S. men’s team gearing up for its Gold Cup game Saturday against Panama, Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber was in town Friday to talk about the possibility of a franchise in Nashville.

Nashville is one of 12 cities bidding on four MLS expansion teams. While it may not have initially been at the top, Garber said in the last six months there has been a strong push for an MLS club.

While bringing an MLS club to Nashville would mean competing with two other professional teams, it’s the success of both the Titans and Predators that placed Music City on the map.

“When you look at that and say, boy if you could have the right soccer team, it could give us that kind of success,” said Don Garber, MLS Commissioner. “The fact that the hockey team, football team and members were represented at the lunch speaks to something unique in this matter. There is a sense of partnership between leaders and the public sector: Everybody wants to make Nashville bigger, better, more internationally appealing, have more opportunities for its citizens and that kind of stuff is a valuable aspect of their bid for sure.”

While Nashville continues its rapid growth, one of the barometers for MLS expansion is the popularity of international games. That is something Garber says is a major factor when considering expansion and something that Nashville really has going.

“So the 25, 26 thousand at the women’s national team cup surprised us,” Garber said. “It was a great, highly attended match. So I do believe that soccer can succeed in any city in North America today. But there are a handful of cities which are kind of punching above our expectations and we test them with international matches. It should be no secret to anybody. If you don’t have success with friendlies or international competition, you’re not gonna’ have success in MLS. So that’s a checked box that we’ve actually checked a while ago.”

While Garber is in town to watch Saturday’s USA vs Panama contest, the match is expected to draw a record crowd for the city of Nashville at a soccer game.  It is something that could go a long way towards MLS Expansion.