Major League Soccer To Add New Professional League, MLS NEXT, In 2022

The MLS has announced plans to launch a new professional league in 2022 designed to complete the player pathway, as well as bring professional soccer to cities that currently do not have a professional soccer team.

The new league, coined MLS NEXT, will consist of 20 MLS clubs along with the potential for independently owned teams for the inaugural season in 2022. The league will begin in late March,  conclude with playoffs in the fall, and a championship match in early December.

“We are excited to launch a new league to complete the professional pathway between our academies and the MLS first teams,” says MLS President and Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott. “In addition to providing more opportunities for MLS-caliber players, the new league will develop a diverse talent pool of coaches, referees, and front office executives while also attracting fans who previously were unable to support a local club in their hometown.”

There is currently a record high of 20% of MLS roster slots occupied by players who were developed through MLS club academies. The creation of a new league will provide MLS clubs with the optimal environment to produce the next generation of players and more opportunities for talented young players. The new league also hopes to offer more professional opportunities on the technical and business side of the game, developing new jobs for coaches, referees, and executives to become involved in the growth of the game. Importantly, the new league will follow MLS’ commitment to activate programs as part of the Soccer Upward Mobility initiative to develop talent and create opportunities for individuals from underrepresented groups.

More details about the new MLS NEXT will be announced later this year.

Nashville SC Signs Defender Tom Judge, Goalkeeper Tor Saunders

Nashville SC have signed 2021 MLS SuperDraft selections Tom Judge as its new defender and Tor Saunders as goalkeeper. Both players will have an option to extend each year through 2024.

“Tom and Tor are both players that we feel have the potential to grow and develop into roles with our club,” says Nashville SC General Manager Mike Jacobs. “Tom is an athletic left-sided defender who gets up and down and involved on both sides of the ball. Tor has impressed in the time we had tracked him prior to selecting him in the SuperDraft and has continued to show well during training.”

Judge, a New Jersey native and James Madison University graduate, was drafted on Jan. 21 as Nashville SC’s first selection in the Second Round of the 2021 SuperDraft. Following the draft, the defender returned to JMU for his senior season where he was named MAC Hermann Trophy Semifinalist as he led the Bulldogs to a 5W-1L-1D record, a goal differential of plus seven and five shutouts. Judge finished his career with 63 appearances, three goals, and four assists while also being selected as a United Soccer Coaches First Team All-American, the United Soccer Coaches All-Atlantic Region First Team, College Soccer News First Team All-American, and TopDrawer Soccer Second Team Best XI.

Saunders, a Washington state native, was selected by Nashville SC in the Third Round of the 2021 MLS SuperDraft from Coastal Carolina University where he earned All-Sun Belt honors and was named the Sun Belt Newcomer of the Year. The goalkeeper started 15 matches for the Sun Belt this season, logging six clean sheets through an 8W-5L-2D record. Saunders’ 2021 season also earned him a place in the MAC Hermann Watch List as he was named to the Senior Class Award First-Team All-American, the Sun Belt Conference Championship All-Tournament Team, and was awarded the Most Outstanding Player.

Both players join draft classmate Irakoze Donasiyano who signed with the club on April 28.

ESPN 94.9, Nashville Soccer Club To Debut NSC Backstage Radio Show

Nashville SC, in partnership with the club’s official radio station, have announced the launch of NSC Backstage. The new show will air on the ESPN 94.9FM station at 7 p.m. CST on select Monday nights starting on June 21.

Hosted by Nashville SC broadcast voices Tony Husband and Jamie Watson, the one-hour show will feature a rotation of Nashville SC coaches and players as well as other soccer personalities from across Major League Soccer. Nashville SC Captain Dax McCarty is set to be the show’s first guest.

“We are delighted to launch NSC Backstage, a show that will give our fans the opportunity to get an inside look at our team and its personalities,” says Cristina Maíllo Belda, VP of Communications with Nashville SC.

Through the remainder of the 2021 season, there will be nine live shows of NSC Backstage. In addition to 94.9 FM, the video show will stream live on 102.5 The Game’s Periscope, Twitch, and YouTube channels.

“This show has been in the works for a while now and we’re so glad to bring this to life on our radio and digital platforms,” says ESPN 102.5 The Game and ESPN 94.9 Program Director Ryan Porth. “NSC Backstage will provide a unique angle to the club, where fans will get different insights on the stars they watch every season.”

NSC Backstage Schedule (Starting at 7 p.m. CST):

  • June 21
  • June 28
  • July 12
  • July 19
  • July 26
  • Aug. 9
  • Aug. 23
  • Aug. 30
  • Sep. 6

Seat Selection For New Nashville SC Stadium To Begin For Season Ticket Holders

The new Nashville Soccer Club stadium is nearly done and the organization has begun the seat selection process for season ticket holders starting July 6.

Priority in the selection process will be determined by the initial purchase date of each season ticket membership, with First String Founding MLS Members receiving the highest ranking followed by Gold Priority, Blue Priority members, and any remaining priority members. In addition, The Backline Supporters will be the first to lock in their place in their dedicated Supporters Section.

“We wanted to reward those people who were committed the team early and that goes back even to our days in USL,” says Nashville SC CEO Ian Ayre. “it’s a nice opportunity to reward those who rewarded us with their support.”

So far, the club has sold close to 11,500 tickets for the new stadium not including any of the premium seating, according to Ayre. He says that the stadium is a huge attraction and believes the club will see an uplift in sales. He believes that the new stadium will be “the spiritual home of Nashville Soccer Club.”

Starting at $18 per match for First String Founding MLS Members in The Backline Supporters Section and $12 for children 12-years-old and younger, the new Nashville SC Stadium offers a large variety of options and pricing for everyone when gates open in 2022.

The stadium is on pace to open on time for May of 2022 with the steelwork and canopy set to be completed by August. Fans interested in purchasing tickets for next season can get a look at what the stadium will look like by taking a virtual tour. To purchase a Season Ticket Membership, click here.

Nashville SC’s Jhonder Cádiz Named To Venezuela’s Copa America Roster

Jhonder Cádiz. Photo: Courtesy of MLS

Nashville Soccer Club’s Jhonder Cádiz was named to Venezuela’s roster for the Copa America, marking him as the first player in club history to play in the South American tournament.

Cádiz was named to the final roster for Venezuela’s National Team last Thursday (June 10) ahead of the team’s first match of the tournament on Sunday against host country Brazil, who they lost to at 3-0. Cádiz was already in camp with La Vinotinto for a pair of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Qualifiers last week, making two appearances off the bench.

Over the course of June, Venezuela will play three more group stage matches against Columbia (June 17), Ecuador (June 20) and Peru (June 27).

Cádiz is one of five NSC players who have been called by their national teams during the recent international break. Aníbal Godoy (Panama), Alistair Johnston (Canada), Randall Leal (Costa Rica) and Walker Zimmerman (U.S.) have all seen similar action this month.

The MLS and Nashville SC will resume regular season play on June 18 when NSC take on the New York Red Bulls in Harrison, New Jersey.

Walker Zimmerman To Join US Men’s National Team In Match Against Costa Rica

Walker Zimmerman. Photo: Courtesy of NSC

Nashville SC defender Walker Zimmerman will be joining the U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT) in its friendly match against Costa Rica.

The 2020 Major League Soccer Defender of the Year and Best XI has earned 13 caps and recorded two goals with the USMNT. Most recently, Zimmerman has played the full 90 minutes in six of the last seven matches he has appeared with the U.S., posting six shutouts, three of them during the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup.

Zimmerman will face his Nashville SC teammate and Costa Rican international Randall Leal, who has been competing with the Ticos National Team since May 29 in the inaugural Concacaf Nations League.

Fans can catch the match on Wednesday, June 9 at 6 p.m. CST on ESPN2 and UniMás.

Nashville SC Partners With LGBT Chamber of Commerce To Celebrate Pride Night

Nashville Soccer Club and the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce will join forces to celebrate Pride Month by hosting the official NSC Pride Night on Saturday, June 26, as the club takes on CF Montréal at Nissan Stadium at 7:30 p.m. CT.

“To have the ability to celebrate Pride and the LGBTQ community with this initiative is extremely special for our organization,” says Nashville SC Senior Director of Community Engagement Brandon Hill. “Our club and our league believe that Soccer is for all regardless of race, religion, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation. We are committed to being the most inclusive of all sports leagues in North America and this initiative is a great opportunity to show our support.”

NSC is launching a Pride Patch which can be bought on the team’s website with proceeds benefitting the LGBT Chamber of Commerce. This year’s Nashville Soccer Club Pride Patch, designed in collaboration with the LGBT chamber, is an innovative spin on celebrating June as Pride Month with the distinct flavor of Nashville.

The design honors the history of the traditional rainbow colors of the Pride Flag while also incorporating the colors of the newly designed “inclusive flag” – representing the commitment to racial equity, the transgender community and honoring the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community. The Pride patches are now on sale, giving fans and supporters alike the opportunity to purchase the Pride Patch through Wednesday, June 30.

“We are so proud of our member Nashville SC on their dedicated and intentional work on incision and diversity,” says Joe Woolley, CEO of the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce. “From the moment they formed they have been focused on making everyone feel welcomed and a part of the team. Soccer and all sports should be for everyone, and Nashville SC makes it clear they are. We love that the Pride patch is available for people to show their pride and support of the team and the community, and the LGBT Chamber Foundation is so honored to accept the funds and have them advance our educational and community-building initiatives.”

Fans will be able to purchase a Pride Bundle Package which includes: a ticket to the match in the Pride Section and a game-day poster. For each package purchased, a $5 donation will go to the LGBT Chamber of Commerce.

Nashville SC’s special Section 615 will host guests from the LGBT Chamber and the Oasis Center Just Us program, which helps lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth to achieve their full potential. The club will also recognize a leader in the LGBT Community as the 2021 pride Ambassador and Hyundai Hero of the Match.

Premium Club Seating On Sale At New Nashville SC Stadium

The WeHo Club and The Goal Post Club, the newest two premium club seating options at the new Nashville SC Stadium, are now on sale to the general public.

The two new clubs at the NSC Stadium are set to become a one-of-a-kind experience for the soccer fan in North America by providing the right setting for all fans’ desires. The WeHo Club will celebrate the musical heritage of Nashville including live performances on game day, while The Goal Post Club will become the greatest sports bar destination on game day and other big occasions.

Renderings of The Goal Post Club

“We continue to be blown away by the demand we are seeing for every premium product we put on sale,” says Nashville SC CEO Ian Ayre. “To see that both of these clubs have sold over 50% of their memberships before we went on sale to the general public is another indication of the growing demand for soccer and this exciting new venue in Nashville.”

Fans who purchase memberships for The WeHo Club and The Goal Post Club will receive the following benefits:

  • All-inclusive food and beverage
  • Private lounge access
  • Tickets to all Nashville SC regular season home matches and playoff options
  • Invitations to exclusive team events
  • Merchandise discount
  • N Business Membership
  • Personalized, exclusive merchandise & gift program
  • Preferred pricing for non-matchday private event rental space

Renderings of the WeHo Club interior

Nashville SC fans interested in getting a more in-depth view of the new Nashville SC Stadium can visit the club’s revolutionary Virtual Venue that features an architecturally accurate 3D map and full virtual reality views that allows fans to have an interactive look through seat technology inside their new home.