MLS upbeat about first meeting with Nashville expansion group, mayor

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Will Major League Soccer award Nashville an expansion franchise? We will know sometime in the coming months. Let's compare Music City with the other 11 wannabe MLS cities. Dave Ammenheuser

A group of Nashville business heavyweights have organized a new coalition to help Music City compete for one of four future expansion franchises that Major League Soccer plans to add.(Photo: Major League Soccer)

Major League Soccer’s first face-to-face sit-down with the lead investor of an ownership group bidding for an expansion team in Nashville and Mayor Megan Barry was positive, MLS President Mark Abbott said Wednesday.

MLS officials met with lead investor John Ingram, Nashville MLS Steering Committee co-founder Bill Hagerty and Barry at the league’s offices in New York on Tuesday to hear their pitch on bringing pro soccer to Music City.

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It was the same day ownership groups from Nashville and 11 other cities submitted bids to compete for one of four MLS expansion openings.

“It was a wonderful meeting,” Abbott said in conference call with reporters. “The mayor expressed the support of the city behind the application and John expressed his enthusiasm about being involved in trying to bring a Major League Soccer team to Nashville. So, I thought it was a very positive initial meeting.

“I was struck by the mayor’s vocal support for bringing Major League Soccer (to Nashville),” he said. “She’s quite a spokesperson and advocate for the city of Nashville and that comes across when you meet with her.”

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Abbott sat down with Hagerty last year to hear out Nashville‘s MLS push, but hadn’t previously met Ingram and Barry. He said MLS won’t select cities that have not finalized their stadium plans.

Barry earlier this week said she hopes to finalize a proposal by the summer for a new MLS stadium at the city-owned Fairgrounds Nashville that would use both public and private financial resources.

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The first pair of four cities, which would begin play in 2020, are expected to be chosen in the late spring or summer. It’s unclear when the next two would be picked.

Abbott declined to comment when asked whether Nashville has a better chance to land one of the final spots. He said MLS is “not ranking or handicapping anybody’s odds.”

Other cities vying for expansion openings are San Antonio, San Diego, Detroit, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Ohio; Raleigh/Durham, N.C., Charlotte, N.C.; Sacramento, Calif. and Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla.; Indianapolis; and Phoenix.

In addition to stadium plans, MLS says it will also consider a city‘s ownership group, market size and soccer fan base, among other considerations, before choosing where to expand.

Reach Joey Garrison at and on Twitter .

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