Zapruder film courtesy @SportsNightWSM twitter.
Nashville SC majority owner John Ingram and CEO Ian Ayre headed to Opryland last week to chat with WSM’s Sports Night. They broke a few key pieces of news in that appearance. I have transcribed some of those from the audio. For their full interviews, please go to WSM (and they get all the credit for earning these quotes, I’m just a stenographer and interpreter here).
What the next big steps in building for MLS are:
Ingram: “Stadium’s big. There’s sponsorship things: stadium sponsor, the kit or jersey sponsor, and we’ve got a whole team working on that. Fleshing out a little bit with the team. Ian and the team are in the middle of it. Got some good news as we were sitting on the couch waiting to come here about a deal that is close to being finished and can be announced soon that will be a really exciting player to add.
What’s the latest on training and academy facilities:
Ingram: “Then there are training facilities, and the academy facilities. That’s all getting started: we’re going to actually do the academy out at Currey Ingram Academy, where I might have a little bit of a connection. But, it really ought to be fantastic, because first of all we have the space: they have baseball fields, and they’ve never played baseball out there. So I said, ‘well why don’t we turn those into soccer fields, and we’ll have the academy out here.’ We’re also going to build boarding facilities out at the school. There’s under-absorption: the high school, which is where the bulk of our players will be, could have another 100-150 kids out there. So all these things kind of fit together for doing the academy there. We’ll also have the temporary – for the next year or two – have our MLS team practice there as we finalize finding another space to build permanent facilities.”
How will the team be built in advance of the inaugural MLS season?
Ayre: “All of the recruitment going on right now will carry through this year and go on early into new year. The core or nucleus of those players will come back right after New Year’s and we’ll go to preseason in early January with a view toward starting. End of February is the start of MLS next year.”
“We want to find the best players we can find and spend our money really wisely. But we want players that fit together and make a team. We have some really, really great targets that we’re looking at. As long as we can get close to what we perceive to be the type of players that we want in the type of positions we want, we’ll be in excellent shape. As John touched on, we have a couple to announce, hopefully in the next week or two. A lot of really positive stuff going on lately, and all these things only come from hard work and those guys on the recruitment side.”
Ingram: “I can tell you internally, everyone’s very enthusiastic about what we’re doing.”
What will be the structure and plan for the youth academy?
Ayre: “We’re in the final stages of that. We’ve identified the candidate, just tying up – as you do in any recruitment – tying up the loose ends of that. More on that very soon. I think certainly within the coming weeks we’ll be ready to announce that publicly. That’s such an important piece. If you think about developing a pro sports team in only sport in any market, these things only become successful when you can also feed from the bottom.”
“There’s nothing prouder as somebody from the city, to see another person from your city as a supporter pull that jersey on and go out and play.”
Do you try to emulate Atlanta’s path to success?
Ayre: “When you speak to the people deeply involved in it, my counterpart at Atlanta similarly came from the Premier League, a guy called Darren Eales, we’ve known each other many years. I think there’s some of it that they’re still trying to work out themselves, for the same reasons.
“It’s almost like Atlanta was – just like Nashville, we believe – was waiting for that opportunity. Everyone feels welcome, where it’s something for everyone, where it’s different where you probably don’t already have a team, certainly in this country, if you’re in Nashville. You’re not going to change college football teams, or NFL team, or baseball team. A lot of people don’t have their soccer team, or MLS soccer team. There’s some opportunity behind that.”
“And then on the field, they bought really well. They spent a lot of good money. They spent a lot of money, and a lot of people comment that they spent too much money – a lot more than other teams. But they spent it really well. It’s one thing to have a lot of money, it’s another thing to spent it well, and it’s easy to waste money in soccer.”
Ingram: “They’re drawing crowds of 50,000 plus, in many cases more than the Falcons. Interesting: the overlap in ticket base is less than 2% between the soccer team and the NFL team. I actually hope it’ll be bigger [here]. It’s just interesting that it’s a very different crowd.”
What will the schedule be like in MLS?
Ayre: “So it’s highly likely – not been formally announced – but all indications would be that we’ll play in the Western Conference next year. That’s because of an imbalance in teams when we join. But then most likely we’ll go back to the Eastern Conference in the second season.”
What it all means:
Obviously, there has been news in the signing department since their interview, with Aníbal Godoy bound for Nashville. Your mileage may vary as to whether you think he’s worth the Allocation Money outlay, it’s a good signing, whatever.
The academy stuff is partially non-news for those who follow closely (it’s important!). Confirming the long-rumored Currey Ingram Academy location is nice to know for sure. Knowing some of the age-range stuff and that they’ll be building dorms at that site (again, that it’s going to be residential isn’t new. The details behind that are). Having separate training (first team) and academy facilities seems to be what most MLS 3.0 teams are moving away from, so to hear that they’re securing separate real estate for the club’s primary training facility is a little newsworthy.
I’m very excited about knowing who the academy director is going to be, not that it will likely have a huge effect on the day-to-day any time soon. That a hire is close (along with some of these other hires for the ramp-up to Major League Soccer) is something that makes me more anxious to find out who it is.
The last newsbit, that Nashville SC will be in the West in the first year, is probably roundly disappointing to fans. Atlanta, Chicago, Cincinnati, Columbus are all in the East. The only vaguely reasonable driving game in the West is Sporting Kansas City. At the same time, some frequent flyer mile use in year one before saving the budget in subsequent years might be fun, too: get those trips out of the way that you don’t kno if you’ll have opportunity/reason to take again.