Major League Soccer plans to announce Wednesday that Nashville will be awarded an expansion team, a person with direct knowledge told The Associated Press.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity Tuesday because a public announcement was not authorized.
The league called a news conference for Wednesday for an announcement on the “future of soccer in Nashville” and said MLS Commissioner Don Garber will attend along with Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry and John R. Ingram, head of the group bidding for a Nashville team.
Nashville and Sacramento were viewed as the favorites for the league’s 25th and 26th teams, with Cincinnati and Detroit the other finalists. A decision on the second area picked is expected within a few weeks.
It was not immediately clear what the status of Sacramento’s bid was.
Nashville’s group includes Ingram, the chairman of Ingram Industries Inc., and the Wilf family, owner of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings.
The Metro Nashville City Council on Nov. 7 approved $225 million in revenue bonds to construct a 27,500-seat soccer stadium and an additional $50 million in bonds for renovations and improvements around the site at the current fairgrounds.
“People all across our city, from elected officials to business and civic leaders, soccer fans and the public, have joined together in support of this bid,” Ingram said after presenting the bid to the league’s expansion committee on Dec. 6. “We believe MLS and Nashville are a perfect match and are ready to prove that Music City is Soccer City.”
Nashville has an NFL franchise in the Tennessee Titans, which arrived from Houston in 1997. The Predators began play in 1998 as an NHL expansion franchise and lost to Pittsburgh in this year’s Stanley Cup Final.
Music City has been hosting soccer at the Titans’ Nissan Stadium in recent years and impressed Garber this summer when the U.S. played Panama in its CONCACAF Gold Cup opener. The July 8 game drew 42,622 fans to Nissan Stadium, and 56,232 attended a preseason exhibition on July 29 between Manchester City and Tottenham. A U.S. women’s national team match against France in March 2016 was attended by 25,363.
“If you don’t have success with friendlies or international competition, you’re not going to have success in MLS,” Garber has said. “So that’s a checked box that we’ve actually checked a while ago.”
Nashville’s stadium proposal includes private development of 10 acres around the stadium and renovation of the fairgrounds. The stadium could open by March 2021 with bonds approved on the condition Nashville receive an expansion franchise from MLS.
Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle on Monday granted a motion by the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County to dismiss a lawsuit filed in Tennessee Chancery Court’s 20th Judicial District by a group called Save Our Fairgrounds and 11 individuals. They were attempting to obtain court orders blocking a stadium.
“Nothing in the Metro Charter prevents additional uses of the Fairground Tract,” she wrote.