Concacaf To Expand Champions Leagues, Introduces Tournament Between MLS & Liga MX

Pictured L-R: MLS Commissioner Don Garber, Concacaf President Victor Montagliani, Caribbean Football Union General Secretary Camara David, Liga MX President Mikel Arriola and Central American Football Union President Rafael Tinoco. Photo: Courtesy of Concacaf

Concacaf is redesigning its Champions Leagues Cup system by introducing a new Leagues Cup tournaments in North America, Central America and the Caribbean. This includes a month-long tournament between the MLS and Liga MX.

From 2023 onwards, three regional cup competitions will be played in the fall of each year and will qualify clubs into the Concacaf Champions League. Following the conclusion of the three cups, a Confederation-wide expanded 27-club Concacaf Champions League will be played in the spring to crown the region’s best club. The top three finishing teams from each regional tournament will automatically qualify for the Champions League.

“This is a hugely significant development for Concacaf and for leagues and clubs in our region. The Concacaf Champions League has consistently grown in recent years and this new format will provide a major boost to the competition. Working collaboratively with our stakeholders we have been able to create a new calendar which grows and enhances our Champions League and fully incorporates regional cup competitions,” says Concacaf President and FIFA Vice president Victor Montagliani.

This new format of regional cups will allow for the three regions to crown their own champion, prior to the Concacaf Champions League which will see clubs compete to win the Confederation’s club title and qualify to the FIFA Club World Cup. The new Concacaf Champions League will continue to be played in a direct elimination knockout stage format and will be composed of five rounds. The first four stages will include home and away play, while the Final–where Concacaf’s Champion will be crowned–will be played as a single leg match.

The current format of the Concacaf Champions League–the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League–will remain in place for the 2022 and 2023 editions. 2023 will be a transition year with the last edition under the current format played in the spring, prior to the new regional cup competitions commencing in the fall.

For more information about the Leagues Cup, the Champions League or the new formatting can go to the MLS website.

Nashville 2026 World Cup Bid Committee Announced

As a delegation of FIFA officials begin their tour of Nashville and its athletic facilities, a local organizing committee has been announced which includes representatives from Nashville Soccer Club and the Tennessee Titans.

Nashville Soccer Club owner John Ingram will serve as chairman of the Local Organizing Committee. Additionally, Ian Ayre, Chief Executive, Nashville Soccer Club, will chair Training Sites and International Relations/Logistics; Burke Nihill, President and CEO, Tennessee Titans, will chair the Stadium committee; Colin Reed, Chairman and CEO, Ryman Hospitality Properties, will oversee Fundraising; and Butch Spyridon, President and CEO, Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp, will chair the Host City committee.

“We continue to elevate our game, we continue to host world class soccer event and we continue to position Nashville as a world class event city. Our track record speaks for itself,” said Spyridon.

Spryidon and Nihill, along with CONCACAF President and FIFA Vice President Victor Montagliani and Colin Smith, FIFA Chief Tournaments & Events Officer, held a press conference on Thursday (Sept. 16) to discuss what FIFA will be looking for in a host city.

“We are here to do our due diligence on not only the stadium, but the city and all things in between. We will continue that this afternoon and later on early this evening before we leave, but I think it’s important for us to acknowledge that the World Cup is the biggest event in the world,” said Montagliani. “The World Cup will be a tremendous event and will be a tremendous platform not only for the game itself but also for for a city, for a state, and for a country. Nashville has put their best foot forward.”

The delegation will also look at training facilities, including fields at Lipscomb University, Lipscomb Academy, Vanderbilt University, Trevecca Nazarene University, Nashville SC Stadium, and Currey Ingram Academy. Potential host cities will be toured through November and a decision will be made in January of 2022.

Nashville SC Club Youth Academy To Begin Inaugural Season

Nashville Soccer Club’s Youth Academy will begin play in their inaugural season in MLS NEXT. The 2021-22 campaign is set to kickoff on Saturday (Sept. 18) as the U-15 and U-17 side will take on Inter Miami CF’s Youth Academy.

Under the guidance of Jamie Smith, Nashville SC’s Technical Director, Nashville SC’s Youth Academy will participate in MLS NEXT, a new paradigm for player development launched in 2020 to transform youth soccer in North America. Founded on a collaborative approach to governance and a commitment to innovation, MLS NEXT players have access to the highest level of competition, training and personal development opportunities to prepare them for their futures. Current membership includes 134 clubs, 590 teams and over 12,000 players across the U.S. and Canada.

“Jamie and his staff have worked so hard over the past year to prepare these players for the start of the MLS Next campaign, and we are excited to see the next generation of the Boys in Gold in action this weekend versus Inter Miami,” says Nashville SC General Manager Mike Jacobs.

Smith brings an abundance of experience to Nashville SC’s Academy both as a professional player for 14 years and a coach, having served as Academy Director and launched several Academy programs throughout the United States. As Nashville SC Academy Director, Smith oversees the technical aspects of the Academy including player identification, curriculum, staff development, leadership and more.

To learn more about the youth clubs and checkout the season schedules, head to the MLS NEXT website.

FIFA Delegation To Visit Nashville As Prospective 2026 World Cup Host City

A delegation of FIFA officials will begin its tour of U.S. cities from Sept. 15-23 to determine who will host 2026 World Cup games, starting in Boston and ending in Miami. FIFA officials will be visiting Nashville on Thursday, Sept. 16.

Boston, Atlanta, Orlando, Washington DC, Baltimore, New York/New Jersey, Philadelphia and Miami will also be visited in this initial trip. The remaining US bidding venues, as well as those in Canada and Mexico, will be visited by the end of November.

The overall delegation will be led by FIFA Vice-President and Concacaf President Victor Montagliani and will include FIFA experts across multiple fields, including venue management, stadium and city infrastructure, team facilities, commercial, bidding and legal.

Montagliani, FIFA Chief Tournaments and Events Officer Colin Smith, and the candidate host city representative will be available for media at Thursday’s press conference.

Nashville SC’s Hany Mukhtar Named MLS Player Of The Week

Hany Mukhtar

Hany Mukhtar, one of the driving forces behind Nashville Soccer Club’s remarkable success this season, has been named MLS Player of the Week for Week 23. Mukhtar scored two goals in the teams recent 3-1 win over New York City FC. This marks the fourth time that Mukhtar has won MLS Player of the Week Honors after being selected on Oct. 18, 2020, Nov. 9, 2020, and June 19, 2021.

Mukhtar leads the team in scoring and assists with 10 and 7, respectively. He has played in 21 of 22 matches so far this season for a total of 1,632 minutes. He is making case for an MVP this season and is now in a tie for seventh place in the running for the MLS Golden Boot.

The win against NYCFC was Mukhtar’s third multiple-goal game of the season, tied for the league lead, which also included the fastest hat trick scored from the start of a game in MLS history on July 17, leading to his prior Player of the Week honors.

Nashville SC Celebrates Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Nashville SC (NSC), MLS Works, and Continental Tire are teaming up to support Childhood Cancer Awareness Month Celebrating the 8th annual Kick Childhood Cancer campaign, the team will aim to raise awareness for pediatric cancers and raise funds for childhood cancer research.

In support of Kick Childhood Cancer month, NSC will collaborate with the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt (MCJCHV) for the second year in a row with multiple initiatives.

MLS and Continental Tire will partner with MLS clubs to organize activations and acts of kindness for patients, families, and healthcare providers.

NSC activities include KCC Scarf Design Workshop to design the commemorative scarf for the KCC 2021 campaign. The scarf will be sold throughout the month of September and used to raise funds and awareness throughout the Nashville community. NSC, MLS and Continental Tires will also donate 125 club customized pajama bottoms for child patients at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, participate in Match-Day Giving, and hold a Holiday Auction.

During the official Childhood Cancer Awareness game tonight (Sept. 3) against New York City FC, child ambassador and cancer patient Lydia Starnes will serve as the Hyundai Hero of the Match and will be featured through the club’s digital and social channels. Fans from the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital and the American Cancer Society will serve as special guests of Nashville SC’s Section 615, a designated section for community partners and special guests. Additionally, child patients from Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital will create scoreboard art to be displayed throughout the match.

Nashville singer-songwriter and Monroe Carell patient Ava Paige Davis will perform the KCC Night National Anthem while Jessica Meyers, a 19-year-old cancer survivor, will guest host and commentate. Meyers will join Tony Husband and Jamie Watson on KCC Night during the Nashville SC halftime show.

U.S. Soccer To Hold Community Programs Ahead Of Nashville World Cup Match

U.S. Soccer will be bringing the One Nation social responsibility platform presented by Allstate, to Nashville ahead of the the U.S. Men’s National Team’s World Cup qualifying match vs. Canada on Sept. 5. The community engagement initiatives are designed to drive positive impact around Nashville in the areas of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.

U.S. Soccer will partner with the Tennessee State Soccer Association (TSSA) and White House Soccer Club to run a free Coach for Community event at the W.L. Anderson Soccer Complex in White House, Tennessee on Sept. 4. U.S. Soccer has introduced the Coach for Community program to serve as an introduction to teaching the game, and to improve sporting experiences within communities, particularly underserved areas. Coach for Community participants will learn about creating a positive, fun and player-centered environment using U.S. Soccer’s Play-Practice-Play methodology.

Together with Nashville Soccer Club, U.S. Soccer will also host the One Nation Community Youth Program at Pearl Cohn High School on Sept. 2. Designed to inspire local young adults to go for their goals regardless of their background, the program aims to broaden their career horizons and build their professional skills. The Community Youth Program will include a sports career panel to increase awareness around career opportunities and small-group sessions to enhance life skills, such as goal setting, networking, collaboration, conflict resolution and resilience skills.

U.S. Soccer will recognize National Soccer Hall of Famer Desmond Armstrong as its One Nation Game Ambassador in Nashville. Game Ambassadors are selected for their impact in the areas of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. Armstrong made 81 appearances for the USMNT and was one of the first U.S.-born Black players to play in the World Cup. Now, Armstrong serves as director for East Nash Soccer and founded the Heroes Futbol Association travel team in 2004.

NSC’s Walker Zimmerman, Alistair Johnston Called Up For World Cup Qualifiers

Walker Zimmerman and Alistair Johnston

With the 2022 World Cup Qualifier matches coming up, Nashville SC’s Walker Zimmerman and Alistair Johnston have been called up by the U.S Men’s National Team and the Canadian Men’s National Team, respectively.

Zimmerman, a 2021 MLS All-Star, will play in three matches for the U.S. in a span of a week–first against the Salvadorian team on Sept. 2 in El Salvador, then facing the Canadian team on Sept. 5 in Nashville, and the final match against Honduras on Sept. 8.

Zimmerman has been one the key pieces for NSC’s success the past two seasons. Zimmerman who currently has 17 caps for the Red, White and Blue, is coming off a 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup call up that saw him start all three matches in the opening round while captaining the National Team for the final two matches before having to exit the tournament due to injury.

Johnston has appeared in 10 games for the Canadian side in which the team has had a record of 8W-2L-0D with a goal differential of plus 28 and five clean sheets. The two losses were suffered by just one goal apiece. Like his club teammate, Johnston is coming off the Gold Cup where he played every minute for Canada, leading the squad to the semi-final round against Mexico.

The 22-year-old will play in three World Cup Qualifying matches for Canada–two in Toronto against Honduras on Sept. 2 and El Salvador on Sept. 8. He will be with the Canadian side when they face the U.S.A at Nissan Stadium on Sept. 5.

Both will rejoin Nashville SC when it faces Atlanta United FC on Saturday (Aug. 28) before heading off to their respective teams.