Nashville residents find a new passion in the city's soccer team
Southern states have never been known as oases for fútbol or hockey culture, both sports found more often in Northern and coastal states. But, the times have changed, eh? Just as the Nashville Predators invigorated Nashville’s interest in hockey, so too has the Nashville Soccer Club in its efforts with soccer, or futbol, as it’s known to the rest of the world.
While Americans use a different name to distinguish it from our own brand of football, an explosion of interest has hit Tennessee, particularly within the past year, as the NSC officially joined the United Soccer League, a professional men’s league.
“The reception by the fans in the community has been phenomenal,” James Cannon, the NSC vice president of marketing and communication, says. “And, to their credit, the fans have created an incredible environment to watch soccer. That’s one of the biggest attractions that the Nashville Soccer Club has for the community: The fans provide the soundtrack … It may stem from the culture that is developed at Predators matches.”
While the club began playing in the professional league in spring 2018, a Nashville soccer team has been around since 2014. The Nashville Football Club, the city’s former team, was dissolved in 2016 after the USL franchise was awarded to the NSC, and the fan involvement has grown ever since. The team’s inaugural season with the USL gave way to more than 6,110 season-ticket buying fans, a record-breaking number for an inaugural USL season.
The average attendance at the games, which are generally played in First Tennessee Park, is 10,558. This ranks the team third out of the 33 teams in the USL for overall attendance.
“Our first season match was at Nissan Stadium, and, in spite of a steady downpour and cold weather, we had close to 20,000 people attend,” Cannon says. “That has helped skew our average attendance even above the capacity of First Tennessee Park … It’s not behaving like a novelty.”
As Cannon mentioned, much of the credit for the team’s success can be given to the fans, who have helped to spread the culture of the sport to the south. Fans and supporter groups travel to each game and perform chants and on-the-spot songs for various players. “The recognized supporter groups ... are absolutely the soundtrack and the chorus of what our game-day experience is,” Cannon says. “Their chants and their traditions are what fuel the game-day experience and the passion that others get to enjoy.”
Off the heels of NSC’s success, a Major League Soccer team, which is a tier above USL, is expected to come to Nashville in 2020 or 2021. Despite this, Cannon says that NSC staff is fully focused on the Nashville Soccer Club. “Right now, we’re focused on this team and building the soccer culture here,” Cannon says. “We want to continue putting a best-in-class soccer experience on the field for Nashville.”