The footprint of Nashville SC is expanding beyond the borders of Tennessee.
The club announced on Tuesday it is partnering with the city of Huntsville, Alabama, to launch an MLS Next Pro team in 2023 to play in the newly redesigned Joe Davis Stadium, a 6,000-seat minor league baseball stadium in North Alabama that serves as a multi-purpose facility for youth football, rugby, lacrosse and other community sporting events.
“When we started building our MLS team in Nashville, we talked a lot about the key ingredients that made Nashville a perfect soccer city: great energy, strong business community and a real civic pride,” Nashville SC CEO Ian Ayre said. “It’s quite obvious in spending time in Huntsville that the same raw ingredients exist here.
“We could not be more excited about bringing our MLS Next Pro team to Huntsville and the amazing stadium project. There will be a lot of heavy lifting to make it all happen, but with lots of experience and a strong local partnership we are in the best possible position to make this project a huge success.”
Formed in 2022, MLS Next Pro is a third-tier professional league under the United States Soccer Federation that serves as a developmental league for MLS and features 21 teams, including 20 MLS reserve sides and former USL club Rochester New York FC.
MLS announced earlier this year that all league clubs with a reserve team in the USL Championship or USL League One would migrate those teams to MLS Next by 2023.
“When we launched MLS NEXT Pro, our goal was to bring soccer to new communities and fan bases, and we are thrilled to do that in Huntsville,” MLS NEXT Pro president Charles Altchek said.
“Having spent time in the city with Mayor Battle and his team, I have seen first-hand the energy and innovation that is driving the city forward. Looking ahead to 2023, we are excited to partner with the City of Huntsville and Nashville Soccer Club to deliver professional soccer to North Alabama and its fans.”
Creating an avenue to feed players to Nashville SC’s major league roster has been at the top of general manager Mike Jacobs’ to-do list for some time. He told the Post last year that in addition to Nashville SC exploring options to build its own reserve team, MLS was also surveying ways to fill the gap under the MLS Next umbrella for U23 players who did not have a place to develop and play regularly.
“Something in the future that we’re very serious about having is a reserve team,” Jacobs noted. “It’s super important for the young players on your team to play regularly. In a perfect world, we’d have our own reserve team rather than send them on loan to Charlotte or parts unknown, but we’re just not there yet. But I will say, when you do it right, your reserve team is a bridge between your academy and your first team.”
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_