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MLS expansion franchise music to Nashville’s ears

(Reuters) – Major League Soccer is heading for the Music City after Nashville was revealed as its latest expansion club on Wednesday.

The city known more for country music than soccer was named the league’s 24th franchise by MLS Commissioner Don Garber during a news conference at the Country Music Hall of Fame, but a decision has not yet been made on when the team will begin to play.

“Nashville is a rising city with a passionate soccer fan base, a dedicated ownership group and civic leaders that truly believe in this sport,” Garber said in a statement.

“Nashville continues its ascent as one of America’s most dynamic communities, with its incredible energy and creativity. For us, that makes it a perfect place for MLS expansion.”

Dec 20, 2017; Nashville, TN, USA; Soccer fans and members of the media gather at the Country Music Hall of Fame for a press conference to announce Nashville as a new MLS expansion team. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

In January, MLS said Nashville was among 12 cities vying to secure a team in a league that began with 10 clubs in 1996. MLS said at the time that two expansion teams would be announced by the end of 2017 and begin playing in 2020.

The Nashville team, which will play in a new, 27,500-seat soccer stadium at The Fairgrounds, is owned by a group that includes the Wilf brothers who own the National Football League’s Minnesota Vikings.

Dec 20, 2017; Nashville, TN, USA; MLS commissioner Don Garber places the scarf on team owner John Ingram officially awarding Nashville the twenty first MLS team during the press conference at the Country Music Hall of Fame. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Despite not having a team to call their own until now, the city of Nashville has embraced soccer in impressive numbers in recent years.

The CONCACAF Gold Cup match between the U.S. and Panama in July drew a crowd of more than 47,000. Later that month, a state-record 56,232 fans attended a game between Premier League clubs Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur.

Nashville already has two major league sports franchises — the Tennessee Titans of the NFL and Nashville Predators of the National Hockey League.

Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto,; Editing by Neville Dalton

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