After years of anticipation and an extended controversy surrounding the construction of their new stadium, Nashville SC is finally ready to kick it off for their inaugural game as a member of the top division of American soccer, the MLS. All the hurdles have been cleared to begin work on their own home field at the Nashville Fairgrounds, hopefully opening in time for the 2022 season, but they’ll make their official introduction to the league at Nissan Stadium on February 29 at 7:00 p.m. More than 40,000 tickets have already been sold for the game, and the team has opened up sales for seats in the upper deck at the home of the Tennessee Titans, so there should be a huge raucous crowd to cheer on their “Boys in Gold.”
While Nashville SC has already developed a loyal throng of followers during their first two seasons competing in the lower lever USL, there are still plenty of potential fans who may just be learning about the team and the sport. If you’re in that boat, here’s a quick primer for what you can expect if you’re in the stands on Leap Day for this historic sporting event.
Who are we playing against?
Nashville SC’s opponent will be Atlanta United FC, a team with its own remarkable history as a recent expansion team in the MLS. (By the way, “FC” stands for “Football Club” the same way that the “SC” in Nashville’s team name means “Soccer Club.”) Atlanta United burst onto the sporting scene in 2017 and quickly became one of the most successful franchises in the league, both in terms of attendance and on-the-field play. Playing in the spectacular modern Mercedes-Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta, the team has set several individual game attendance records, drawing 72,548 fans for a 2019 match against the LA Galaxy.
Atlanta made the playoffs their first season out of the gate and actually won the league championship in their second year of play. A premature exit from last season’s playoffs should make for a hungry opponent. Their proximity to Nashville should also make Atlanta United a natural geographical rival, and you can expect plenty of their fans to make the trip to Music City for the opener.
Will Nashville SC be any good in their first year?
It’s always hard to project how an expansion team will do in their inaugural season, but Atlanta’s early success gives plenty of reasons to hope. Additionally, team ownership has put together an experienced staff of coaches and managers to run the operations, including team CEO Ian Ayre, GM Mike Jacobs and head coach Gary Smith, a veteran leader who won the MLS Cup as the coach of the Colorado Rapids in 2010.
Together, the staff has assembled a team of talented players that represent a balance between experienced veterans and promising younger players. Forwards Dominique Badji and David Accam will key the attack with steady midfielders Anibal Godoy and veteran Dax McCarty roaming between the defense and the goal. McCarty has already become a fan favorite with his ebullient attitude and gritty play, so keep an eye on number 6. Backing up the midfielders will be a veteran group including Jalil Anibaba, Walker Zimmerman and Dave Romney. If you’re looking for a potential breakout player to watch, you might want to pay attention to young German midfielder Hany Mukhtar, number 10 in your program and potentially number 1 in your heart!
What are our fans like?
Nashville is fortunate to already have a very loyal following, led by a group known as “The Roadies.” Named after the hardworking staffer who load the equipment in and out of a venue during concerts, they share the attitude with their motto “First to come. Last to leave.” The stalwart group of supporters represents a multicultural spectrum that is reflective of Nashville’s population, and they always welcome new members. You can join for just $25 a year to be a part of the fun, including pregame parties, road trips for away games and viewing parties at local pubs. Check out their website to learn some of the chants that The Roadies lead almost constantly during the match, and you’ll be ready to sing along.
The Roadies aren’t the only group of team supporters, and collectively all the groups are known as The Backline, including other collections of fans known as The Assembly, Eastern Front, Music City Supporters, Music City Heaters and La Brigada de Oro, Nashville’s first Latin American supporters group.
What can I expect on game day?
Plan to arrive early, because many of the supporter groups start their tailgates as early as four hours before kickoff. Specifically on February 29, Nashville SC will mark the occasion of their inaugural game with plenty of pomp and circumstance. Fans usually arrive in the stadium in time to watch the teams warm up, and as soon as the squads leave the field, the entertainment will begin.
Local alternative rock band Judah and the Lion created the official Nashville SC anthem titled “Never Give Up On You,” and the group will take the stage for a 20-minute performance which will include the playing of that song. After the teams march out on the pitch, Charles Esten, star of the former Nashville television drama, will perform the National Anthem. He’s earned this honor by being a longtime supporter of the team and of Nashville football in general.
The club will start a new team tradition with what they’re calling “The Gibson Guitar Riff.” Rocker Lzzy Hale will shred on a custom Nashville SC-decorated Gibson guitar right in the middle of The Backline fan section to fire up the crowd and the team.
That’s all before the real action begins when your Nashville SC team takes the field to launch a new chapter in Music City sports history. Team ownership and management has done their part by putting together a squad you can be proud of and by creating what should be an outstanding game day environment. Now you can do your part by purchasing tickets, coming to games and standing up the whole time while you scream your head off for your Boys in Gold!