The Nashville Predators saw their 2018-19 season come to an unceremonious end in overtime last night, leaving plenty of their fans without a rooting interest they expected to have for at least a few more weeks.
They should spend this time supporting Nashville SC. Why?
One’s played indoors on ice, the other outside on grass. Still, the crossover between hockey and soccer is fairly substantial. Sure, the majority of team sports include one side trying to score by putting an object into a goal (or endzone) while the other tries to stop them and vice versa, but the “goalie game” aspect makes the pair unique among major sports available in Nashville – albeit with limited other professional options – and that similarity makes for an easy assimilation by fans.
The goalie is the only player with special privileges (or restrictions), there’s an offside infraction that’s way tougher to explain to the layperson than it should be, some of the positions’ responsibilities translate pretty well in terms of developing understanding to someone making the transition from hockey to soccer, etc.
The Preds themselves are Nashville SC fans. They – like essentially every hockey team – include playing soccer (albeit sometimes with a bit of room for improvement) in their pregame routine, and there’s a decent chance you may run into some of them at an NSC game.
Our Town, Our Club
With no disrespect intended to the Sounds (a Triple-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers), the Preds and Nashville SC are Nashville’s teams. If you’re used to cheering for the Boys in Gold at Bridgestone Arena, cheering on a slightly different shade of Boys in Gold just up Fifth Avenue should be easy.
There’s already plenty of overlap between the fanbases: if you cheer in Cellblock 303 for Predators games, you’re probably not far from someone who hangs out in the Supporters Section at First Tennessee Park during soccer games. Heck, that person is probably more than willing to help fill you in if you’re interested in learning about the game.
Fans who remember the Predators’ arrival in 1998 probably recall the sense of community pride around having a team to support that was uniquely Nashville. (While the Titans have become Nashville’s NFL team, certainly at that time they weren’t yet, even if they’d moved into the state). That’s a similar vibe around NSC, with an additional twist: the club was founded locally and supporter-owned before the current ownership took over and moved it to the professional ranks. In a way that really doesn’t happen in other major sports in the U.S., this is truly a franchise that rose from the community.
Ground floor get-in
Nashville SC may be a minor-league team right now (though in a very different sense from minor league baseball: this is the profession for the vast majority of the players, and there’s a level of professionalism at the USL Championship that isn’t matched by Triple-A baseball, where the majority of players are singularly focused on making it to The Show), but the future is right around the corner. NSC will be playing in Major League Soccer at Nissan Stadium in less than a year.
Become a fan now, and you have the opportunity to support a club essentially from the beginning – you’re joining in what could be seen as the prequel to the first season in the big leagues. If you take emotional value from that sort of thing (and count me guilty, no questions asked), now’s the time to join.
I made this point in a preseason pitch to soccer fans, too. It remains relevant: you have a chance to support a winner if you latch onto the Nashville SC bandwagon.
The team is currently tied for sixth place in the Eastern Conference despite having played one of the toughest slates to date, and the expectation is that they’ll be competing for the conference championship and the top seed into the USL Playoffs.
With two players already signed to the MLS franchise (strikers Cameron Lancaster and Daniel Ríos) and playing for the USL team, they should be able to put home plenty of goals this season – the style of play should be more offense-oriented than last year, thanks to the talent available – while the league’s second-best defense from 2018 returned mostly intact, with a few key additions in the fold, as well.
There should be plenty of fun times in Germantown this Summer.
How? Where? When?
Games are played on Saturday and sometimes Wednesday evenings, and you can get a variety of packages from the club’s official website. You can also take in most of their away games on MyTV30, or head to one of Nashville’s soccer-friendly bars to watch them in good company.
If you’re so inclined, you can learn more about joining a supporter’s group (there are four official: The Roadies, The Assembly, Eastern Front Supporters Group, and Music City Supporters) on their respective social media outlets.