By BROOKE WANSER
Four finalists have been chosen by Major League Soccer as cities into which the league plans to expand beginning in 2020.
Owners and officials representing Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville and Sacramento will meet with the MLS Expansion Committee on Dec. 6. to present the case for bringing soccer to their city.
Two cities will be chosen, and Nashville is considered a top pick; Nashville Soccer Club, a United Soccer League team, will open their inaugural season in 2018, and the Nashville Metro Council recently approved plans to build a $225 millions stadium at the Fairgrounds Nashville.
— @MLS2Nashville (@mls2nashville) November 8, 2017
MLS2Nashville is a community group which has pushed to bring a Major League Soccer team to Nashville for months.
Lead investor John R. Ingram, chairman of Ingram Industries and affiliate groups, released a statement on Nov. 29 about the future of the expansion.
“We are excited to be headed back to New York for this next opportunity to strengthen the case that Nashville belongs in the first expansion round. From soccer fans to elected leaders, Nashville has demonstrated an unprecedented level of enthusiasm for bringing MLS to the city,” Ingram said in the written release.
Chris Burger is a financial advisor with CapWealth Advisors, located in Franklin. But he’s also a member of the MLS expansion group, which he says he became involved in through a lifelong love of the sport.
Burger, whose mother, Beverly Burger, is a Franklin alderman, moved to the Nashville area four years ago from Washington, D.C.
“I’m a big USA soccer fan, and when I lived in D.C., a big D.C. United fan,” he said.
As a Nashville sports fan, Burger believes the city is ripe for another sports team.
“We’re such a multicultural city, and we have a tremendous unity,” he said. “You look at the popularity of youth soccer and the sport; it’s only going to continue to grow.”
The Williamson County Soccer Association boasts more than 6,000 children ages 4 through 19 playing soccer nearly all year round. The nonprofit group’s website says the WCSA is one of the largest recreational sports organizations in the Nashville metropolitan area.
Ellie Westman-Chin, the president and chief executive officer of the Williamson County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, has also long been a supporter of the soccer expansion.
Upon moving to Nashville in 1993, Westman-Chin helped create the Nashville Sports Council for Nashville’s visitor’s bureau.
The commission authorized an authority to be created, which Westman-Chin said would also be responsible to digging into a recent sports feasibility study.
“I do picture them doing some research with other facilities that are similar to this in other communities like ours to see how it’s worked for them,” she said.