The United Soccer League announced Thursday that it has awarded an expansion franchise to DMD Soccer, a Nashville-based ownership group, to own and operate a professional USL soccer team in Nashville beginning in 2018.
“We are very proud and excited to welcome Nashville to the USL and look forward to a very rewarding partnership with the entire DMD Soccer team,” said Alec Papadakis, chief executive officer of the USL. “We have long identified Nashville as a USL destination due to its economic vibrancy, as well as its growing millennial and international populations.”
The DMD Soccer ownership team is made up of a group of prominent and successful Nashville-based investors that includes David Dill, president and chief operating officer of LifePoint Health.
“It’s an incredible opportunity to bring professional soccer to Nashville, and I am excited to partner with the USL and our ownership group to make this vision a reality,” Dill said.
The group also includes Marcus Whitney, president of Jumpstart Foundry, a seed-stage healthcare innovation fund. Whitney is an award-winning executive, self-made entrepreneur, active venture capitalist and a celebrated public speaker.
“The energy around soccer in Nashville is the same energy that makes this a great place to live and work,” Whitney said. “The team and I are ready to work with the soccer community, city leaders and additional investors in the months ahead as our USL franchise becomes Nashville’s next great success story.”
Rounding out the primary ownership group is Christopher Redhage, co-founder of ProviderTrust, who has started and led successful healthcare, technology and entrepreneurial ventures.
Redhage brings a strong soccer background to the ownership team, having been named a Nebraska high school player of the year and having played Division I soccer at University of Richmond before playing at various professional levels. Redhage later coached at the University of Nebraska before entering the private sector.
“Soccer brings people together from every possible background, and I am excited to see how Nashville will unite as a city behind this team,” Redhage said. “With more and more Nashvillians from all over the world playing and following soccer, now is the right time to bring pro soccer to Nashville, and we are humbled to be a part of the story.”
Nashville’s rich soccer history includes the Nashville Metros, which at one point was the longest operating soccer club in the United States, and the current, supporter-owned amateur club Nashville FC.
The announcement comes on the heels of record-breaking crowds at recent soccer matches in Nashville and a growing supporter base for soccer across the city. The U.S. Women’s National Team drew the largest crowd to attend a U.S. women’s match in the state of Tennessee – 25,363 fans – on March 6 at Nissan Stadium.
That followed a state-record crowd of 44,835 who saw the U.S. Men’s National Team defeat Guatemala at Nissan Stadium on July 3, 2015. In a testament to the city’s growing international population, the Mexican Men’s National Team will make its first trip to Nashville on Oct. 8.
“The rise of soccer support in Nashville coincides with our reputation as a vibrant, welcoming city,” Nashville Mayor Megan Barry said. “My administration has been committed to supporting the growing number of soccer players and fans in Nashville, and the news today is another example of how our city is on the fast track to being a premier city for soccer in the Southeast.”
The team’s ownership group will host a public event in mid-June to roll out its overall vision for the new team. The team has not yet announced a location, but has been working with a variety of potential partners.
About The USL: The USL is a vital part of soccer in the United States, on and off the field, and has more than doubled in size since 2014. The USL offers the highest level of competition under MLS on a national footprint with strong local ownership groups in major markets positioned for long-term success.
With 29 teams in 19 American states and three Canadian provinces, the USL is the largest professional soccer league in the United States and Canada, and the world.
The 2016 season marks the introduction of six teams: Bethlehem Steel FC, FC Cincinnati, Orlando City B, Rio Grande Valley FC, San Antonio FC and Swope Park Rangers KC. The league has already confirmed the addition of Reno 1868 FC, and will feature 30 teams in 2017. Natural geographic rivals for Nashville will include USL teams from St. Louis, Louisville, Charleston and Cincinnati.
The USL’s teams are divided into two conferences, Eastern and Western, with each team playing 30 regular-season games. In addition to league play, USL teams compete in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, as well as various domestic and international exhibitions.
The USL is the longest-standing professional affiliate member of U.S. Soccer. Every game of the 2016 USL season can be seen live, free and in HD on Match Center at www.USLSoccer.com, with updates from across the league also available on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.