Major League Soccer’s opening weekend is just two days away and along with celebrating the league’s 25th anniversary the league will also be welcoming its two newest franchises in Nashville and Miami this season.
Inter Miami CF’s arrival has been much anticipated since David Beckham and his ownership group announced their interest in bringing an MLS franchise back to Miami in 2014. Given the star-studded cast of executives, coaches and players to arrive at the franchise over the last six years, the hype surrounding it has been relentless. Yet, the modesty and communal atmosphere of their fellow expansion franchise Nashville SC has set the foundation for one of the more unique club cultures across the entirety of MLS.
It comes as no surprise that much of this foundation is built upon the artistic origins that are deeply rooted in Music City. Atlanta United toggled with the idea of meshing entertainment and sports through various Atlanta-based artists such as Big Boi, Waka Flocka and Lil Scrappy, but Nashville are ready to make that idea the soul of their franchise.
Music City’s Judah and the Lion will open the pregame festivities with a 20-minute set that will include the franchise’s an- them “Never Give Up on You.” Charles Esten, a strong advocate of the #MLS2Nashville campaign that brought an MLS franchise to Nashville, will perform the national anthem just before kickoff.
Among supporters in The Backline section, Lzzy Hale of Halestorm with perform a pre-game Gibson Guitar Rift. Hale will be the first of many artists to perform their own rift for Nashville on a customized, NSC-themed Gibson guitar. To the neutral audience, the guitar rift will join Los Angeles FC’s falcon’s pregame lap around the field, Atlanta’s golden spike and the Seattle Sounders’ fan march to Century Link Field as just another match-opening tradition. However, for the city of Nashville, the guitar rift is symbolic of the hard work that has gone into bringing this franchise to Music City coming to fruition.
In the build-up to their inaugural season, Nashville has even appeared at the city’s annual Whiskey Jam. Shades of electric yellow and acoustic blue – the franchise’s official colors – decorated the venue, soccer scarves hung from the rafters and the club crest was on every koozie in the building.
“I think [Nashville SC] is only going to grow here in this city,” Julia Cole, a performer that night at Whiskey Jam, said to mlssoccer.com. “Nashville loves starting something some new and knowing that this is starting from scratch with us – it makes it our team.”
Throughout every match, a “One Nashville Under Gold” banner can be found hanging in the stadium as a tribute to Nash-villians from all walks of life. The team has also designated a section of the stadium – formally known as Section 615 – dedicated to people, groups and community organizations who are doing good work in and around Nashville.
Excitement for the return of MLS soccer has been overwhelming amongst the league’s various fanbases, but Nashville and what their franchise aims to represent is reminder of what these franchises represent. Each of them is an embodiment of their city in the world of sports and should aim to represent the people and organizations of that city in the best light. On the surface, it is just Nashville’s professional soccer team starting their inaugural MLS season against Atlanta’s professional soccer team. On a deeper level, however, that match will open the city of Nashville, its people and its culture to a global audience.
Justin Sousa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter @JustinSousa99.