Nashville SC announced Tuesday that the club will launch an MLS NEXT Pro team in Huntsville, Alabama. The team will begin play in 2023, using a newly-renovated Joe Davis Stadium as its home field.
“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,” said Nashville SC CEO Ian Ayre. “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.”
MLS NEXT Pro is in the middle of their inaugural season. 21 teams are currently in the league, which is the last step in MLS’s pathway from the academy level to MLS, essentially acting as a reserve league. Nashville opted not to field a team in 2022, believing the greater Nashville market wasn’t big enough for two teams. Huntsville and their newly renovated 6,000 seat stadium proved to be the answer.
“Soccer has consistently been one of the most popular and fastest growing sports in our region,” said the City of Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “When the City decided to renovate Joe Davis Stadium and convert its playing field to multi-use fields, we hoped pro soccer would find a way here. Today, we are proud to deliver this exciting sports amenity to our community.”
Nashville have used loans to the USL Championship as a method of player development, and while that will likely continue, having an MLS NEXT Pro side will allow them to develop players from their academy even more, testing them at a professional level before integrating them with the first team. It will also provide valuable minutes for players on the fringes of their MLS roster in a competitive and cohesive club just a short distance away.
We’ll have more news on Nashville’s MLS NEXT Pro side as it develops.