Nashville SC Draws With Atlanta United After Historic Weather Delay

Nashville SC and Atlanta United taking the field prior to kickoff. Photo: Courtesy of Nashville SC

GEODIS Park was sold out on Saturday (May 21) for the highly anticipated match between Nashville SC and Atlanta United, but less than 10,000 fans would stay after a two hour and 53 minute weather delay to watch the two teams finish a 2-2 draw.

Just 18 minutes were played before the officials forced the players off the field and fans into covered shelter due to a lightning storm sweeping the area. The game would not restart until around 10:07 p.m.

“I think in some incredibly difficult conditions, both sides were able to keep themselves together and actually perform to a very decent level,” said head coach Gary Smith in a postgame press conference.

Three hours is a long time to wait to play a game, but when the clubs retook the field the play was as exciting and energetic as before the massive delay.

Nashville supporters congregating and chanting during the weather delay in the concourse of GEODIS Park. Photo: Courtesy of Nashville SC

In just the 25th minute of play, seven minutes after the restart, Hany Mukhtar played a beautiful pass to CJ Sapong who crashed the ball into the back of the net to put the Boys in Gold up 1-0. Just like that the fans and energy in the stadium was back.

Two minutes later, Atlanta responded as the Nashville defense made a massive blunder in the penalty box when goalkeeper Joe Willis turned it over to Marcelino Moreno who set up Thiago Almada in front of the net to level the score at 1-1.

“[It was a] misplaced pass and it’s a gift of a goal. We see it around the world, and it never looks good when you’re trying to be constructive and someone makes a mistake inside the penalty area,” Smith added. “Two minutes after we scored and after such a long break, it was a bit of a kick in the teeth.”

But Nashville wasn’t done in the first half. Jack Maher launched a pass from outside the box right to Sapong in front of the keeper when he headed a pass to Mukhtar who headed it into the net, putting NSC up 2-1 and switching the momentum again.

There were a few more decent chances from both sides but nothing of substance before halftime, which was cut to only 10 minutes to make up for lost time.

In the second half, Nashville played well both offensively and defensively with Willis picking up some redeeming saves. But the offense couldn’t connect and a frustrated Nashville picked four yellow cards opposed to Atlanta’s one.

Hany and Sapong had a few chances to drive in the third goal and solidify a win over Atlanta but it didn’t come. Even with a few late substitutions, the Boys in Gold couldn’t get that last score.

Hany Mukhtar and CJ Sapong celebrating a goal. Photo: Courtesy of Nashville SC

Very similarly to Atlanta’s visit to Nissan Stadium to face Nashville in 2021, United scored the equalizer in the 88th minute when Dom Dwyer scored off of a first touch pass from Brooks Lennon.

Nashville hosted Atlanta at GEODIS Park just 10 days prior in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round of 32 in which Nashville won 3-2 in extra time. Atlanta has been one of the toughest teams to beat especially in rivalry games like Saturday’s.

“The way Atlanta plays makes it very, very difficult to constantly keep them under pressure because of the quality they have,” Smith summed. “I think in terms of the two games in 10 days that we played them, as far as competitive games go, we’ve been toe-to-toe with this group.”

Saturday’s draw keeps Nashville in sixth place in the Western Conference standings with 19 points.

Next up, Nashville will head to Louisville to face Louisville FC in the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 on Wednesday, May 25. After that, the Boys in Gold will play the Colorado Rapids in Denver on Saturday, May 28 before returning to GEODIS Park the following Saturday.

U.S. Soccer Federation, Women’s & Men’s National Team Unions Agree To Historic Collective Bargaining Agreements

Photo: Kelly Backus/ESPN

History has been made as the United States Soccer Federation (USSF), the United States Women’s National Team Players Association (USWNTPA) and the United States National Soccer Team Players Association (USNSTPA) have agreed to collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) that achieve equal pay and set the global standard moving forward in international soccer.

The two first-of-their-kind CBA deals run through 2028 and achieve equal pay through identical economic terms, including identical compensation for all competitions, such as the FIFA World Cup, and the introduction of the same commercial revenue sharing mechanism for both teams. The agreements will ensure that U.S. Soccer’s Senior National Team players remain among the highest paid in the world.

“This is a truly historic moment. These agreements have changed the game forever here in the United States and have the potential to change the game around the world,” says U.S. Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone. “U.S. Soccer and the USWNT and USMNT players have reset their relationship with these new agreements and are leading us forward to an incredibly exciting new phase of mutual growth and collaboration as we continue our mission to become the preeminent sport in the United States.”

“I am grateful for the commitment and collaboration of both the men’s and women’s National Teams and I am incredibly proud of the hard work that has led to this moment. Everyone who cares about our sport should share in this pride as we look forward to working together to grow soccer for generations to come,” Cone adds.

Under these new agreements, U.S. Soccer becomes the first Federation in the world to equalize FIFA World Cup prize money awarded to the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) and the U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT) for participation in their respective World Cups. Equally as important, the new CBAs improve non-economic terms, including player health and safety, data privacy and the need to balance responsibilities to both club and country.

“They said equal pay for men and women was not possible, but that did not stop us and we went ahead and achieved it,” says Walker Zimmerman, Nashville SC defender and member of USNSTPA leadership group. “We hope this will awaken others to the need for this type of change, and will inspire FIFA and others around the world to move in the same direction.”

“The accomplishments in this CBA are a testament to the incredible efforts of WNT players on and off the field,” says USWNT player and USWNTPA President Becky Sauerbrunn. “The gains we have been able to achieve are both because of the strong foundation laid by the generations of WNT players that came before the current team and through our union’s recent collaboration with our counterparts at the USNSTPA and leadership at U.S. Soccer. We hope that this agreement and its historic achievements in not only providing for equal pay but also in improving the training and playing environment for National Team players will similarly serve as the foundation for continued growth of women’s soccer both in the United States and abroad.”

Key aspects of the agreements include:

  • The CBAs provide for equal rates of pay across the components of Senior National Team player pay, including on-field base and performance pay, equalization of World Cup prize money, and commercial revenue share.
  • Senior National Team benefits such as child care and retirement.
  • Best-in-class playing and training environments
  • USWNT additional benefits like insurance, parental leave, and short-term disability.

For more information and to read the full agreement, click here.

Nashville Soccer Club Forms Inaugural Special Olympics Unified Team

Photo: Courtesy of Nashville SC

Nashville Soccer Club, in partnership with Special Olympics Tennessee, announces the formation of its first-ever Special Olympics Unified Team.

Leveraging the power of sport, MLS WORKS, ESPN and Special Olympics have teamed up to promote an environment of social inclusion, which is aligned with the League’s Soccer For All platform. Cornerstone to the collaboration is the Special Olympics Unified Sports Soccer Exchange Program, uniting individuals with intellectual disabilities (Special Olympics athletes) and individuals without intellectual disabilities (Unified partners) as members of one team.

“The Special Olympics Unified Program and our partnership with Special Olympics and Major League Soccer is an amazing program,” said Nashville SC Head of Community Brandon Hill. “It’s all about promoting a spirit of inclusion and diversity, one of our core pillars as a club, and it’s one of the most important programs across MLS. We couldn’t be more excited to partner with Special Olympics Tennessee in launching our first ever Special Olympics Unified Team.”

Photo: Courtesy of Nashville SC

This week Nashville SC and Special Olympics Tennessee held an official Signing Day event at GEODIS Park featuring club executives and players Joe Willis, Taylor Washington and Eric Miller. On behalf of Nashville SC, General Manager Mike Jacobs presented Special Olympics Tennessee with a $10,000 check, and immediately following the Signing Day event, the club’s Unified Team members took to the pitch for the team’s first official practice.

“This is such a special day for Nashville Soccer Club,” said Jacobs. “The idea of supporting a venture like Special Olympics fits the core tenants of our club and who we are. We have made history many times just in the last month, and today we do it again for Nashville SC and our community. It is so exciting to be able to add future Boys and Girls in Gold to our team through the Special Olympics Unified Team.”

Two members of the Nashville SC Unified Team will travel to Minneapolis to participate in the Special Olympics Unified Sports All-Star Game. One Special Olympics athlete and one Unified partner will be selected to represent Nashville SC August 8-10 during MLS All-Star Week. The experience culminates in a competitive East versus West, 11 versus 11, Special Olympics Unified Sports Soccer Game.

Featured Top L-R: Nashville SC GM Mike Jacobs, Joe Willis, Taylor Washington, Eric Miller

“This is an historic day for our organization and an incredible opportunity for these athletes,” said Special Olympics Tennessee CEO Adam Germek. “It’s a dream come true, and from our perspective, we’re so thankful for Nashville SC and their promotion of inclusion in our community and for embracing our athletes and individuals with intellectual disabilities. We have felt the love from day one, and Nashville SC has been part of our family in the same way we feel a part of their family.”

The Nashville SC Special Olympics Unified Team’s official trainings will be held in June and facilitated by Special Olympics Tennessee. The Blue versus Gold Unified Team match will take place on July 17 when the Boys in Gold host LAFC at GEODIS Park. The MLS Unified All-Star Game is scheduled for the last day of MLS All-Star Week on August 10.

Nashville SC Special Olympics Team:

Valor College Prep

  • Jeremy Adkins
  • Ahmad Amedi
  • Kimberly Aguilera Basaldua
  • Mia Binns
  • Connor Doyle
  • Sawyer Garrett
  • Lily McGowan
  • Maggie Meier
  • Karla Montiel
  • Maria Munoz
  • Jad Rahme
  • Adan Ramirez
  • Haziel Salomon
  • Tony Tejada
  • Mitchell York

Franklin High School

  • Avery Brown
  • Margaret DeFranco
  • AJ Elliot
  • Bryan Fisher
  • Taylor Hasan
  • Finn Jacobs
  • Davis Long
  • Rachel Martin

Whites Creek High School

  • Payton Adams
  • A’Jha Davis
  • Zephaniah Dennis
  • Anthony Felton
  • Nzinga Jean
  • Roland Jenkins
  • Darron Jennings
  • Gabriel Johnson
  • Jevaun Sanderfer

John Ingram, Ja Morant, And More Announced As Tennessee Sports Hall Of Fame Class Of 2022 Honorees

Nashville SC owner John Ingram and Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant. Photos: Courtesy of Nashville SC and the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame has announced the honorees for its 2022 Achievement Awards, with Nashville SC principal owner John Ingram and Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant topping the list as the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame 2022 Tennessean of the Year.

Other top honors include a celebration of the 50 anniversary of Title IX, Memphis Grizzlies, Middle Tennessee State Head Track & Field Coach Dean HayesCandace Parker (Chicago Sky), Jack Leiter (Vanderbilt Baseball), Rachel Heck (Stanford Golf), East Tennessee State Football, and Tennessee Southern Women’s Soccer.

These honorees will be recognized for their achievements this past year alongside the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2022 inductees Sharrieffa Barksdale, RA Dickey, the late Harry Galbreath, Artis Hicks, Jevon Kearse, Randy Lambert, David Legwand, Nikki McCray-Penson, David Suddeth, Tony White, the late David Williams II and Toby Wilt.

Ingram has led Nashville SC from its USL origins to be one of the most successful MLS teams these past two seasons. In May, Nashville SC opened GEODIS park, the largest soccer-specific stadium in the U.S. and Canada, in front of a sold out crowd of over 30,000 fans.

Morant has been one of the best players the NBA for the 2021-22 season, leading the Memphis Grizzlies to the second round of the NBA Playoffs and has been named as Male Professional Athlete of the Year. After sustaining an injury last season, he was awarded the NBA Comeback Player of the Year averaging 27.4 points per game, 5.7 rebounds per game and 6.7 assists per game. The Grizzlies have been named Professional Team of the Year after having one of their best seasons in almost a decade finishing second in the Western Conference winning 56 games.

Candace Parker has been named Female Professional Athlete of the Year. Parker, a former Tennessee Lady Vol, joined the Chicago Sky in 2021. The regular season ended with Parker and the Sky earning the No. 6 seed in the playoffs. They won two single-elimination games, followed by an upset of Connecticut in the semifinals, before beating the Phoenix Mercury to win the 2021 WNBA Finals. Parker averaged 16.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game on the way to her second World Championship.

Vanderbilt’s Leiter was one of five consensus first-team All-Americans nationally. He named a first-team All-American by the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA), Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA). He was also the SEC Newcomer of the Year. He was selected by the Texas Rangers with the second overall pick of the 2021 MLB Draft. He has been named the Male Amateur Athlete of the Year.

Female Amateur Athlete of the Year is being awarded to Stanford golfer Rachel Heck. She is a native of Memphis, and a graduate of St. Agnes Academy in Memphis. She is a five-time AJGA All American, two-time USA Today High School Golfer of the Year, a four-time individual state champion, and winner of many events through the course of her prep career. Now, as a sophomore at Stanford, she is already tied for third most victories in school history.

Other honorees include Title IX 50th Anniversary for the David Williams Significant Historical Achievement Award, MTSU Track & Field coach Dean Hayes for the Pat Summitt Lifetime Achievement Award, the Tennessee Southern Women’s Soccer for the Female Amateur Team of the Year, and the ETSU football team for the Male Amateur Team of the Year.

The honors will be formally presented as part of the hall’s 2022 Banquet, presented by the Tennessee Titans on July 23 at the Omni Nashville Downtown. Tickets for the banquet ceremony can be purchased through the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame website.

Ethan Zubak’s Extra Time Goal Leads Nashville SC To 3-2 Win Over Atlanta United

Ethan Zubak celebrating his goal in extra time. Photo: Courtesy of Nashville SC

Being down 2-0 by halftime is something Nashville SC isn’t used to.

But a different team came out of the locker room for the second half. They pulled off an epic comeback scoring two goals, one which came in stoppage time. Then Ethan Zubak would clinch the comeback win with a goal, three minutes into extra time, clinching the 3-2 win over Atlanta United in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round of 32 at GEODIS Park on Wednesday night (May 11).

“There’s not an awful amount I can say to describe the event,” said head coach Gary Smith in a postgame press conference. “Atlanta was better in the first half and we were better than them in the second half. It took a monumental effort to turn around a difficult start. But in the end, I think we showed all the characteristics of team that has so much spirit, so much fight, and so much character.”

Zubak was subbed in at the 76th minute when Nashville was down 2-1 and showed immense effort, fighting along with his team to avoid elimination. His extra time goal was his first goal as a member of Nashville SC in one of the best performances in the club’s short history.

Ethan Zubak with head coach Gary Smith. Photo: Courtesy of Nashville SC

“It was one of, if not the most exciting night of my life,” said Zubak. “You can’t even imagine games like that. To just be a part of it, be a part of this team and be a part of this city, I can’t even put it into words. I’m just proud to be here.”

Nashville was coming off a 2-0 MLS win against Real Salt Lake just a few days prior but started off this cup match extremely slow, almost without the energy they usually do.

A few good moves and small chances were created by Hany Mukhtar and Ake Loba but nothing that could be turned into a scoring opportunity.

Atlanta kicked things off early with some great action, scoring in the 12th minute. Andrew Gutman took the ball in the box and far off the net to make a beautiful pass into the center of the box to Thiago Almada, who drilled it to the back of the net.

In the 29th minute, Atlanta made it 2-0 after a brilliant touch and strike by Luiz Arauja in the box. Nashville looked like they were caught sleeping. 

Not much changed in Nashville’s play as they still couldn’t create a decent scoring opportunity around a stifling Atlanta defense.

“The guys understood and realized they performed below par,” said Smith. “There was no real conviction to the way we went about defending not only this home field but really attacking what was our debut in the Open Cup.

Nashville SC supporters section. Photo: Courtesy of Nashville SC

“Cup games are all about passion, belief and determination. If you want to win a cup competition, a knockout competition, you have to leave it all out there. There is no draws, there’s no ‘we get a point for that and well done.’ There has to be a very different attitude to it and in the second half we saw that.”

The Boys in Gold played a fantastic offensive press led by Loba and Mukhtar and in the 50th minute, Nashville drew a penalty with the opportunity to get on the board and change momentum.

Mukhtar, who has struggled with penalties in the past, took the opportunity and scored to make it 2-1. And even with a smaller crowd of only 12,000 fans on a Wednesday night, the roar and energy from the fans was instrumental to the team’s performance in second half.

But there was an extremely controversial moment in the 79th minute when Muktar placed a beautiful freekick inside to the box to Walker Zimmerman for a goal, but the line judge called it offside. Replay showed that Zimmerman was in fact onside and by a good distance.

“I don’t want to get into this but I thought the officials tried to do their very best to deny us the opportunity. And I’m trying to be as respectful as possible,” said Smith. “But there were other moments in that second period that the guys had laid everything on the line to get back in the game and were denied that.”

Hany Mukhtar and CJ Sapong celebrating the game tying goal. Photo: Courtesy of Nashville SC

Luckily for Nashville, this officiating blunder didn’t stop the momentum.

In the second minute of stoppage time, CJ Sapong came off the bench scored a brilliant header off of a Tai Anunga pass. The goal completely defeated anything left in Atlanta’s moral and sent the game into extra time.

Zubak would call game just three minutes into extra time, sending Nashville into the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 and eliminating rival Atlanta United.

Nashville won 61 percent of duels and outshot Atlanta eight to five in the second half.

Next up, the Coyotes will be heading to Houston on Saturday to face the Dynamo at 7: 30 p.m. CT. Smith believes the energy and excitement from Wednesday’s Cup win will lead into the weekend’s league match.

“The guys will be as high as kite. I’ll be peeling them off the ceiling,” said Smith. “In fact, I won’t even have to ask them if they want to play this weekend. They will be absolutely jumping jacks out of the dressing room on Friday, they’ll have a recovery day tomorrow and they will be ready—trust me.”

Nashville will also wait to see who they will play in the US Open Cup Round of 16 as the draw for the next round will be on ESPN+ at 7:30 p.m. CT. Their possible opponents are Inter Miami, Orlando City SC and USL club Louisville City.

Nashville SC Fans Celebrate GEODIS Park Opener Despite 1-1 Draw

Pictured: The Nashville SC side, arm-in-arm, singing “Never Give Up On You” with the fans after the match. Photo: Courtesy of Nashville SC

Over 30,000 fans packed GEODIS Park for the first time ever to cheer on Nashville SC who were able to secure a 1-1 draw against Philadelphia Union on a late penalty kick by Randall Leal.

Even with the slightly disappointing outcome, the passion and blistering sounds of the fans from around the stadium stole the show.

Doors opened at 1:30 as fans began to pour in. The wide concourse allowed supporters to walk freely, exploring all the bells and whistles of GEODIS Park. Parents with their children, young fans, old fans, veteran fans and newcomers all looked in awe and excitement of their new permanent home. 

After a certain age, you can’t experience to joys of waking up on Christmas morning as you did when you were a child, but for so many fans this was a Christmas morning three years in the making. Absolute bliss and joy overcame fans walking into the park, realizing their dreams had come true. Some fans were walking around, beer or food in hand, as they would if this was their 100th trip to the park. 

From the moment the Boys in Gold walked onto the pitch, the noise was deafening in the partially enclosed arena. It was something that could only be truly experienced in person.

“The crowd was magnificent,” said head coach Gary Smith in a postgame press conference. “From the very first moment they walked on the field for the warmups, [the team knew] that it was going to be a wonderful recognition of the guys being back home and in this new stadium. I really felt that the acoustics were amazing.”

Nashville SC fans. Photo: Courtesy of Nashville SC

The chants and cheers from the packed supporters section helped NSC play a brilliant first half. Right off the bat, the offense from Hany Mukhtar and Alex Muyl created great chances for Nashville but they couldn’t convert. Captain Dax McCarty had a bullet of a shot that rang off the right goalpost in the first five minutes. Muyl also had a fantastic shot but Union goalkeeper Andre Blake made a great play at the top crossbar.

Blake was spectacular all game, especially in the first half, frustrating Nashville’s offense with four saves–all being great displays of athleticism. NSC had nine total shots, including four from inside the box. They had 81 percent passing accuracy and had possession of the ball 59 percent of the entire first half. However, even with these numbers, the Boys in Gold couldn’t score.

“To see the guys start off the first half life they did was very, very pleasing,” Smith noted. “I was really disappointed we didn’t go a goal up.”

In the second half, Philly made more chances on offense while Nashville struggled to capture the energy and speed they had in the first half. Mukhtar and CJ Sapong were well defended, preventing any big chances from developing.

Goalkeeper Joe Willis had a solid game until the the 66th minute when Union forward Mikael Uhre received a pass off a counter, took the ball into the box, and placed a beautiful shot on net to give Philadelphia the lead. Nashville was caught off guard in their only poor defensive display of the game.

It wasn’t until late in the match that NSC made some moves and drew a penalty off of a Jose Martinez handball. This was a golden opportunity for the Boys in Gold to make it even which was just what they did.

Randall Leal celebrating his successful penalty kick. Photo: Courtesy of Nashville SC

Leal took the penalty and drilled it to the bottom right side of the net, getting just under Blake’s arm for the first Nashville SC goal in park history. The roar of the crowd was magnified as the penalty was scored right in front of the supporters section.

In last season’s Eastern Conference Semifinals, Blake saved Leal’s penalty shot in a shootout which Nashville went on to lose. As Leal explained, this was a sort of revenge for him.

“In that moment I just took it because life always gives you revenge, always. Today it was mine. I took the ball and said to God, ‘Please heal me,’ and we scored. It’s not about me or about the goal, it’s about the team,” Leal shared.

Even though they only secured one point, the Nashville SC side locked arm-in-arm by the supporters section and sang Judah & the Lion‘s “Never Give Up On You” with the fans. They took time to recognize the fans who’ve been with the club from back in its USL days and have supported them through thick and thin.

“I don’t think we’ll do that too often when there is a tie, but we wanted to commemorate this moment,” Muyl said. ” There are some things that are bigger than results. It was the love and the support and just the overall, genuine feeling of care that we have for [the fans]. I think if had lost, we would’ve done it because it was just to say thank you to them and wrap up this wild moment.”

Nashville SC now sits in ninth place in the Western Conference standings with 12 points. Their next match is against Real Salt Lake on Sunday, May 8 at GEODIS Park. They will then take on Atlanta United FC on Wednesday, May 11 in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round of 32.

Nashville SC U.S. Open Cup Match Tickets On Sale On May 5

Nashville SC has announced the ticketing options and the sale dates for its Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match against Atlanta United at GEODIS Park.

Current Premium Season Ticket Members will receive first take at their seats on Monday, May 2. The Season Ticket Members window will kick off at 10 a.m. CT on Wednesday, May 4 with a special discount on single match pricing along with the opportunity to see Nashville SC’s inaugural Open Cup match for as little as $10 in the Supporters Section.

Tickets to the general public will go on sale at 10 a.m. CT on Thursday, May 5 with prices starting as low as $15 in the Supporters Section. Premium seats will be available for $60, while the upper bowl will not be for sale at this time.

Also on May 5, fans will be able to purchase group packages for 10 or more people starting at $13.

Nashville SC is just five wins from obtaining its first trophy in club history should the Boys in Gold win the 2022 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. In addition to silverware, winners of the 2022 Open Cup will receive $300,000 and a place in the 2023 Concacaf Champions League.

Nashville’s U.S. Open Cup match against Atlanta will be on May 11 at GEODIS Park. They will host Atlanta again 10 days later for an MLS rivalry match that will air on Fox at 6:30 p.m. CT on May 21.

GEODIS Park Offers The Soccer Dream That Nashville Could Never Have Imagined [Interview]

GEODIS Park. Photo: Courtesy of Nashville SC

In 2018, a small fan base of passionate soccer fans supporting Nashville’s USL team couldn’t possibly imagine what Nashville Soccer Club would grown into.

Everything–all the work, dedication, construction and wins–leads to Sunday, May 1 as Nashville SC plays its first home game at the new GEODIS Park.

Building a brand new stadium during a pandemic is already an extremely difficult feat, but building a new franchise, trying to win games and grow a fanbase is a completely different task to undertake.

“We’ve achieved so much great stuff in what has been a very difficult period to start anything,” Nashville SC CEO Ian Ayre shares with The Sports Credential. “We started and got shut down after two games in 2020, and yet we’ve built this stadium ahead of time and on budget. We’ve also finished in the conference semifinals in our first two years in MLS.”

Nashville’s success in its young MLS career has been unprecedented, including back-to-back MLS semifinals appearances, the MLS record for an undefeated streak at home, and pulling out 11 points from their first eight games, all of which were all on the road.

Ayre has been an integral part of this success.

Nashville SC CEO Ian Ayre. Photo: Courtesy of Nashville SC

A Liverpool, England native, he has been the leader of bringing this club from a USL team with some passionate fans to a legitimate MLS Cup contender with a fast growing fanbase. He stepped down as CEO of Liverpool FC in 2017 and was ready for the next adventure. However, at no point did he think that building a soccer club in Nashville would be that next adventure.

“I am a big believer that things just happened for a reason,” Ayre explains. “I got a call from a friend of mine who I’d known for many years and his company had been appointed to do the search to find someone for John Ingram and the Ingram group to run [the Nashville team]. It certainly wasn’t anything I’ve ever thought of doing, but the more time I spent on it, the more I realized what an exciting opportunity it would be not just to run a team, but to actually build the entire thing from scratch. [That is] kind of unique to do what we do in this sport. It doesn’t get more exciting and fulfilling than to create the whole thing.”

Opening Day at GEODIS Park was the hottest ticket in town, selling out within 20 minutes of general ticketing going on sale. With this brand new 30,000 seat state-of-the-art stadium, Nashville SC has solidified itself within the Nashville sports community.

Discussions of where the stadium would be and how it would look started early on with principal owner John Ingram and mayor Megan Berry before Ayre joined the club. Once the Nashville Fairgrounds were decided as the location and the team got the green light from the city, Ayre and the rest of the organization began planning what the stadium would look like in the Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood.

GEODIS Park while under construction. Photo: Courtesy of Nashville SC

“We worked as a group–myself and the ownership group–to look at the design with Populous, who were the main architect, and Hastings, who were the local architects. Some of the key messaging that came out of those discussions was really about the neighborhood in which it would sit in,” Ayre shares. “It was really important to make it look like it belongs in that neighborhood. Wedgewood-Houston is a very up-and-coming urban area. There are some amazing stadiums both in the MLS and around the world, and some of them look like giant spaceships that have landed from somewhere, which might be the right thing in some places. But we just felt that our design, look, and feel needed to fit.

“We’re building the biggest house in the neighborhood, you don’t want to build the most gaudy one. A lot of brick, steel, and wood were built into the design, and some of the steel work is designed with a very industrial look. I think it works perfectly for the location and what we’re after.”

The stadium is also designed to be loud and exciting, as well as give fans tons of room on the concourse to use the restrooms and concessions without ever having to leave the action.

“This is a proper, authentic soccer experience. Even if you’re on the very back seat of the back row, it’s still 150 feet from the touch line. The rake of the seats is really steep, and it has a canopy all the way around so the noise will echo. The acoustics are really well designed, so I think the noise in that place is going to be insane,” Ayre adds.

Fans at the open training session at GEODIS Park. Photo: Courtesy of Nashville SC

With the success of soccer in Nashville and Middle Tennessee, and the building of GEDOIS Park, more opportunities will arise.

The stadium was also designed with use as a concert venue in mind, fit with top of the line equipment to host musical acts. GEODIS Park will offer a midsize outdoor venue to those who wouldn’t fill Nissan Stadium but want something bigger than the Ryman Auditorium or Bridgestone Arena.

“This stadium was designed with concerts in mind in particularly,” Ayre notes. “It has all of the phase power, lighting, plugins and all that type of stuff. It’s got the steelwork in the south end built, so they can hold stage and lighting rigs. There are artists dressing rooms and locker rooms that convert into green rooms. We own our own pitch cover, so the whole thing has been designed, particularly, with with concerts in mind.”

Nashville is currently working on a bid to bring the 2026 World Cup to Music City and host a few games. GEODIS Park won’t host a World Cup game with only 30,000 seats, but the stadium shows a commitment to soccer and soccer fans which is something FIFA will be looking for. New practice facilities for Nashville SC are also on the horizon, which would be utilized by teams playing in the World Cup.

“I’ve been involved in one of these bids before, and one of the things that FIFA looks for is that most cities can put on a great soccer match,” Ayre says. “They look for cities with good energy and that can entertain people. Where better than Nashville? I could see a scenario where our stadium, if we were a host city, could become a place where we do concerts, massive watch parties and those types of things. Obviously, it would be another facility that they could tap into.”

Pictured L-R: Mary Cavarra, Brian Tibbs, CM Joy Styles, John Ingram, Michael Carter, Darrell Freeman, Ian Ayre, Eleanor McDonald at the ground breaking of GEDOIS Park

The entire process and project was a massive undertaking, but nothing could’ve been done without a great team around Ayre and the ownership group. Building a strong and competent team to help take this stadium from an idea on paper to a glorious building overlooking the neighborhood was a source of pride for Ayre.

“For me, personally, the best part was assembling the team that makes the whole thing work–building the actual staffing, both initially with my senior management team, and then all other people below them,” he notes. “We also have 30 players and coaching staff, so it’s a big organization that comes from me being employee number one, to having almost 200 people. That’s been the most exciting part for me, and the most rewarding, because anyone who’s run any organization knows that getting the right people is probably the most important, but also the hardest task.”

With the new stadium opening its doors just days from now, fans can expect a massive party hours before the game and after, including family friendly activities, a pregame concert from Breland, and a postgame concert from Judah & the Lion. It will be a celebration of not only soccer and the club, but of the community, the city, and everything that Nashville has to offer.

“We like to think of it like a festival of soccer,” Ayre sums. “If you go to a music festival, you go because you usually really like the headliner. In this case, soccer is that headliner. The 90 minutes is the headliner, but we wanted to surround that experience with all sorts of other things that people will come for, and then talk about.”