When Golden Goal caught up with Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber for a one-on-one interview at Wednesday’s groundbreaking MLS expansion announcement, he was effusive in his praise of Music City’s sports culture.
“This is a city that just loves coming together to celebrate things that matter to them,” Garber said in a one-on-one interview. “That could be culture, it could be music, it could be the food scene, and now it’s really very much about sports.”
Now, that passion centers on soccer. But last summer, when hockey took center stage, Garber was watching closely. Ultimately, the fan frenzy that surrounded the Nashville Predators’ Stanley Cup Final run impacted the MLS’s expansion decision.
“The support for the Predators…has our entire industry really impressed,” said Garber.
Ultimately, however, a viable MLS candidate had to have strong public-private alignment. According to the Soccer Don, Nashville began to separate itself once those pieces were in place, backed by avid soccer support from the fans.
“When [team owner] John Ingram put his hat in the ring and Mayor Barry and the governor got behind a reimagination of the fairgrounds site, then we saw the success of the USA-Panama [Gold Cup match] and the exhibition game [between Spurs and Man City], it was smooth sailing,” Garber said.
Now, Garber and the MLS turn their attention toward selecting the second expansion team in the cycle. Sources tell Golden Goal that the league will soon announce the timeline for that decision to be announced.