Earlier this month, we asked fans to take part in our preseason survey, covering a wide range of topics around the team, supporters culture and Geodis Park. You showed up in big numbers, with 334 fans responding before the survey closed on Friday.
Thanks to everyone who took part. Here are the results.
Fair warning, this is a long post.
The 334 responses we received represented 96 different zip codes. West Nashville’s 37209 was the most common with 18 responses, while 37013 (Antioch), 37211 (South Nashville), 37075 (Hendersonville), 37128 (Murfreesboro) and 37076 (Hermitage) all made up a sizeable portion of the responses.
While the overwhelming majority of responses came from Middle Tennessee or Southern Kentucky, we did receive a sizeable group of out-of-state responses, including answers from fans in New York, Chicago, Salt Lake City, and New Orleans.
Overall, fans have a positive view of Nashville’s performance in their first three seasons in Major League Soccer. On a scale of 1-5 (least to most satisfied), 65.9% of respondents listed their overall satisfaction at a four.
What do fans think of Nashville’s results in MLS?
“It’s about as good as you can ask for an expansion team. Still work to do to be elite though.”
“Making the playoffs is an unacceptably low benchmark.”
“With the league MVP, defensive POY, and a wingback that made the national team, it feels like we’re under performing despite an extremely successful few years as an expansion franchise.”
“Status quo. I expect owners who preach ambition to back that up at some point.”
“Good, but expectations are mounting.”
“It feels as though we are significantly under-shooting our potential. If this team were a bunch of nobodies, then playoff appearances might be considered a success. We have the MVP, a 2-time Defender of the Year, 2 USMNT players, and other high-quality players as well. Disappointing (and short) playoff runs and a struggle to finish in the top 3 of the conference is not nearly good enough.”
Style of play
Fans have a fairly neutral view of Nashville’s style of play. 45.8% of respondents graded it a three out of five, with four (25.1%) and two (23.1%) splitting the ballot. From the comments, fans generally view the play style as too defensive, while also appreciating that it has lead to results.
“I appreciate the excellence on defense but this team can be boring to watch at times due to the defensive emphasis. It also seems like this team plays not to lose more often than it plays to win.”
“Predictable and safe. It keeps a high floor, but really lowers their ceiling.”
“When we’re getting results I take pride in the grittiness. On losing streaks it’s demoralizing to watch.”
“It would be nice to be more adventurous, but it has worked out well. The club is going to have to increase investment in the squad in my opinion to achieve that.”
Despite some complaints about the style of play, fans have a overall positive view of Gary Smith’s tenure as head coach, with 39.8% respondents grading him a four out of five and 38.3% giving him a three.
Here’s what fans said:
“He’s done more than well enough with the team that he’s been given.”
“He’s been consistent in terms of establishing a baseline, but I’m not sure if he can take us to the next level where we are more dominant.”
“Very evasive on personnel decisions. Grossly underutilize potential offensive players.”
“3 years, 3 playoffs is very impressive no matter what.”
“The coaching staff seems from my perspective to be one of the best in MLS. No on is perfect, but Gary has the respect from players and seems to have a solid vision.”
“It feels like we hold players back. Loba for instance. Guy could have been wicked. We never know if we don’t see them play.”
“Gary in particular – he was a perfect fit to start the franchise. Someone who can muster results with an inferior squad. As the team has grown, his tactics haven’t. I think it’s time to move on from Gary.”
Fans had a moderate view of Nashville’s performance in the transfer market since joining MLS in 2020. 40.7% of fans rated their transfer performance a three out of five, while 32.6% gave them a two.
Nashville’s current transfer window is viewed less positively, with just 8.4% of fans rating it at a four or higher, and 54.4% of fans giving it a two or lower.
Fans are most confident in Nashville’s current group of defenders, with 70.3% of respondents picking defense as their strongest position. Conversely, 74.2% of respondents picked forward as the position they’re most concerned about. 80.5% of fans said Nashville should target a forward for their next Designated Player signing.
What are fans’ concerns about Nashville’s current roster?
“Aging midfield with no real depth. Forwards as a whole are extremely underwhelming and unless in form provide very little to the team.”
“Striker obviously, but long term, we’re operating a nursing home of a midfield.”
“Where will the goals come from? What is our alternative if Mukhtar goes down. Will we tolerate another year of minimal productivity from our 9’s?”
“NSC added very little to an attack that was a one trick pony last season. This is a concern.”
“I worry for Midfield depth should Dax [McCarty] and Anibal [Godoy] be out long term again. Sean [Davis] is great, but he can’t do it alone.”
“Sapong and Leal have got to score some goals this year, or we’re going to have to break the bank for a striker. The Loba move really hurt us.”
“We’re sitting on a mountain of gam and empty promises of spending on DPs.”
“I think the talent is fringe playoff caliber. But it’s one Mukhtar injury away from imploding. Picault is a good pickup out wide, but it feels like the club are dragging their feet on improving the two positions of need (CM and ST).”
What do fans think about how Nashville’s technical staff has performed in the transfer market?
“We are great within the domestic market, but our strategy with bringing in international players is terrible and will need to be improved upon if we want to take the next step.”
“Content. The off-season seemed too quiet, but adding Moore last summer and Jacob in the fall feel like big moves too soon forgotten.”
“Lots of big wins to go with several big losses. Mukhtar, Zimmerman, Sean Davis we’re all great business and the FO has done a good job with bargain grabs (Dax, Romney, Shaffelburg, etc). Shaq Moore was also a good pickup. At the same time, the FO has whiffed twice on a DP forward and got next to nothing on the field out of the last two big international signings (Loba/Pineiro).”
“Domestically, they’ve been great. I think the international part of player identification and acquisition is starting to look more and more suspect. You have to give them credit on Hany Mukhtar, who it must be said, had been getting lined up for Seattle a year or two prior. I think, injuries aside, Randall Leal is an interesting one, although he’s seems to have stunted a bit. Outside of those two, it’s a lot of dreck though. That being said, the college draft picks have been mostly good, as you’re only ever going to really hit on a couple, and then moves from USL and MLS teams have been really spot-on.”
“Good at finding valuable role players, like Shaffelburg, bad at pushing for big moves. Which might be more down to ownership.”
“They are selling themselves short. Curious as to what all of the GAM is actually used for. We were promised Nashville would be in the upper half of spending in the league.”
“I can’t make a judgment without knowing what financial constraints we are under.”
“I think they’ve identified good players. It remains to be seen if the coaching staff can develop them further.”
“I believe our staff does a great job inside of MLS, but outside of MLS is another story. Loba, Pineiro, and Cadiz were huge misses. We are good at acquiring league money, but I am not satisfied with how it is being spent. Lots of GAM being acquired through the sales of Johnston, Romney, and Int’l Roster Spots, but not a lot of return.”
“I think the signings and transfers within MLS has been great. But since the initial build of the roster it’s been all swings & misses on the international front.”
“While Loba was a huge miss, they got Hany Mukhtar (the league MVP) for a steal. I think the good significantly outweighs the bad overall.”
“I think they assembled a solid core of players during the expansion season. I’m worried that they’re out of ideas on where to go from here, and there’s a lot of aging pieces on this roster.”
“They did an amazing job building an initial roster to compete straight out of the gate. Some of their signings afterwards have been off (Loba), but others have really hit well (Moore, Shaffelburg). It’s been about as good as it can be.”
Geodis Park opened in 2022, finally giving Nashville SC their own home. Fans had an overwhelmingly positive view of the venue, with 93.7% of respondents giving it a four out of five or higher. Similarly, 88.6% of fans gave the general matchday experience a four or higher.
Parking and transportation, though, are a concern. Fans had an overwhelmingly negative view of the current parking situation, with just 13.2% giving it a positive rating.
What do fans think of Geodis Park?
“It’s a great stadium that’s extremely hard to get to.”
“I love everything about it.”
“Lovely park. Great to watch a match. Getting in/out is awful and the prices of concessions is criminal.”
“A great stadium hampered by poor urban planning.”
“Honestly, it was not as magical as I expected it to be.”
“I don’t like that you can’t walk around the full stadium because of the Club area.”
“Once you’re inside the stadium, its awesome and electric. Its the getting there thats the problem. Parking is terrible and we’re 23 days away from the season with no clue what the situation will be.”
“It’s the greatest. Our whole family (myself, wife, and two daughters) absolutely love match day. We can’t wait to get back!”
“I’ve been to games all over the world and been an MLS season ticket holder in three cities. Geodis is the best game day experience I have had.”
Fans surveyed had a generally positive view of The Backline Supporters Collective, with 50% giving them a four or higher.
What do fans think of the Backline?
“Great diverse culture.”
“The Backline have been finding their footing when it comes to the politics surrounding the game, but the atmosphere they provide in and out of GEODIS is amazing.”
“They are pretentious. Also to note- it’s abhorrent that you have to be a member of the Backline in order to purchase away match tickets.”
“The Backline absolutely keeps the energy levels up and the atmosphere rocking before, during, and after the game.”
“Great, dedicated fans. They got some flack but overall they show up day in day out.”
“Really the only reason the stadium has noise in it.”
“The ‘Will Cheer for Beer’ protest last season was asinine.”
“They do a good job of helping create an atmosphere, but thinking they’re entitled to anything beyond the rest of the fans because they have some cheers that they stole from other teams/the Outlaws and paid dues to be part of a little fan club is outrageously stupid and pretentious. Thinking they speak for all NSC fans is laughable.”
“Chants should be more original. We’re Music City, it shouldn’t be difficult.”
“I was a Backline member, but decided not to renew after the “public demand” letter fiasco this past summer.”
Fans had an overall positive view of the general supporters culture in Nashville, with 67.3% rating it at a four or higher.
What do fans think of Nashville supporters culture?
“I think the health of the overall supporters culture is great. There are always new folks coming into the existing groups as well as new groups forming. Many of the “legacy” groups have rolled over their leadership 2-3x since they were founded which I believe to be a huge sign of growth and progress. It’s also cool to have supporters who remain independent or want to do their own thing on a smaller scale.”
“Too much whining and politics have kept me from joining any SG.”
“Very inclusive. Love that!”
“Some hate the Judah & The Lion song after the matches, I love it!”
“Speaking of growth, this is one of the things I’m most proud of. In 2018 and 2019, this may as well have been a club for almost entirely white people. That is absolutely different now, and a major part of it is the hard work that supporters have put in to build it out of that box. Some of these folks did it with only little to no help from the team, and they deserve all the plaudits. In 2018, we didn’t even have a latino on the pitch, which is wild for the sport in this country. In 2023, the sound of MLS matches in Nashville is driven by folks from La Brigada. It’s a complete transformation. Outside of that supporter community though, there’s still a lot of work to be done to reach traditional Nashville sports fans.”
“Seems to be more and more embraced each year which is awesome.”
Media coverage was a controversial subject in our poll. Looking at national media coverage of Nashville SC, the new Apple TV+ MLS Season pass, and local coverage, fans who took our survey had a wide range of opinions.
Fans had an apathetic or negative view of national media coverage of Nashville SC. 74.9% of fans who took the survey rated national media coverage of Nashville SC at a three or lower.
What do fans think of national media coverage of Nashville SC?
“What media coverage? MLSsoccer.com is the only outlet that really covers every team in the league (that I’m aware of). Sports Illustrated and ESPN don’t publish much MLS content.”
“We do seem to get forgotten about. Hany Mukhtar winning MVP definitely helps with recognition and remembrance.”
“The national media perpetuated the stereotype of us parking the bus long after we stopped doing that.”
“Who ever talks about the team nationally outside of Bogert and Doyle?”
“Same as every other Nashville team. Small market so they’re only going to mention us when absolutely necessary.”
“I think that we’ve been under-covered and somewhat dismissed because we’re not in a major market.”
MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+
Fans were largely optimistic about MLS’s new TV deal with Apple. There were certainly concerns raised, but 77% of fans said they planned to subscribe, while 11.7% said they wouldn’t sign up and 11.3% were still on the fence. 83.5% of fans gave Apple’s initial rollout of the season pass a three or higher.
What do fans think of MLS’s new TV deal?
“I’m a STH so no extra cost is fine by me.”
“Apple has made MLS feel more significant. A good opening for the platform but I’m waiting to see what a standard match day will feel like.”
“WOW! As new soccer fans, it is the study guide to all of the MLS! The roll out content has us on fire!”
“Optimistic! Also no more sketchy websites for blacked out games!”
“Families who have season tickets should be given multiple access codes.”
“I’m not sure if putting so many games behind a pretty expensive paywall is a good way to grow the league.”
“As a season ticket member I love it, but the price point is too high for me if I didn’t have season tickets.”
Local media coverage of Nashville SC
Fans who took our survey were more positive towards local media than national, with 70.9% giving local coverage of Nashville SC a three or higher.
Broadway Sports Media was the most popular selection for local coverage, although hosting this poll certainly skewed numbers in our favor. Club & Country was the second-highest selection, with The Tennessean finishing third.
What did fans think of local media coverage?
“The fan run sites are the best form of authentic coverage.”
“I think the soccer-focused local media does a good job of covering the team. It would be nice if more generalized local media would cover the team more seriously.”
“Please stop using ‘Yotes for the love of Hany!”
“I can’t wait for Jared stillman to eat crow and have to talk soccer some day.”
“Wish there was more talk about NSC on sports radio and more interviews with players other than the two players that get asked post-game questions. Would be great to have more content about the players themselves and more interviews about their playing styles growing up!”
“Tim Sullivan and Ben Wright are the best doing it in Nashville and both are very knowledgable. Also, love the humor the guys at Paradise bring. Wes Bowling has good insight but is cheesy. Tennessean is what it is. I like Drake Hills but can’t ever read his stuff because I’m not paying for that website.”
“Outside of Drake at the Tennessean there really hasn’t been coverage from the traditional media. I do love the local independent media/podcasts/websites. They are doing a fantastic job.”
“Special thanks to Tim Sullivan and Wes Boling.”
“Has been, to date, too cozy with Jacobs/Smith, generally speaking. As if they don’t want to alienate both the access to suits at the club and the ‘this is fine’ element of the supporters.”
“It is embarrassing the lack of local radio coverage of the team. Playoffs, new stadium, Multi year Defender of the year and USMNT fixture, a golden boot and MVP… all of this and crickets on the radio.”
“It’s hard to break into the news cycle when the club wants to control every aspect of the message. It comes across very bland and censored. Can’t blame traditional media for not covering NSC more because all they get is press release language and Walker Zimmerman giving the most soccer player interview of all time. When those who cover the club out of passion aren’t even allowed to tell the full story, then it’s hard for the Buck Risings and Joe Rexrodes of the world to give a damn.”
“I wish the club would recognize media groups and give credentials to such groups as Pharmaceutical Soccer who cover the team as well if not BETTER than some local coverage and BETTER than 90% of national media. Supporter blog/media have an undying investment in a team and if they have a true product/following they should be granted credentials in a case by case basis.”
“Speedway Soccer is my favorite NSC podcast – I wish they would do more episodes in the offseason!”
2023 season predictions
Fans were moderately optimistic about the upcoming season. 44.6% rated their optimism at a four out of five.
65% of fans said that finishing in third or fourth in the Eastern Conference would be considered a success, while 21.9% said Nashville would need to finish in first or second to be a successful season.
Fans were moderately confident in Nashville’s ability to challenge for MLS Cup. 38.3% rated their confidence at a three out of five, 28.4% listed their confidence at a four, and 18.3% selected two. They were significantly less optimistic about Nashville’s ability to challenge for the Supporters Shield, with 79% of respondents listing their confidence at a three or lower.
With Nashville set to compete in both the US Open Cup and the debuting Leagues Cup, fans think the ‘Yotes should prioritize the Open Cup, with 61.4% of respondents giving the Open Cup a four or five on the priority scale. The Leagues Cup was slightly less of a priority, with 53.9% of fans giving it a four or five. 70.1% of fans said they’re excited for the first-ever Leagues Cup.
54.5% of fans said the winter transfer window hasn’t changed their expectations for the 2023 season, while 36.6% said their expectations were lowered by Nashville’s transfer activity. Jacob Shaffelburg was the top pick to finish behind Hany Mukhtar in combined goals and assists in 2023 with 45.5%, while Randall Leal (18.9%), Fafà Picault (13.8%) and CJ Sapong (9.6%) were also popular selections.
94.6% of our survey participants think Nashville will qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs in 2023, but only 11.7% of them picked Nashville to win MLS Cup.
What did fans have to say about the 2023 MLS season?
“I hate Cincy.”
“NSC needs hardware. Any of the four opportunities should be considered crucial.”
“This is the first year I don’t feel as confident about Nashville this season compared to the others mainly because of our transfers or lack thereof. But I still think we can make the playoffs.”
“The less the team is referred to as The Coyotes, the better. It’s a poor nickname and worse than this team deserves.”
“Everyone else in the East seems to be loading up except for NSC.”
“The balanced home/away schedule, shorter commute to away games, and lack of World Cup soccer looming should do the team a big favor. These next few seasons are about building up the regional rivalries in the conference that we should not have been forced to leave, as well as kicking butt in the Leagues Cup to gain some traction internationally. If we get good results against Cincinnati, Atlanta, Columbus, and St. Louis, I’ll be a happy camper.”
“Props for doing a survey like this. Think its great you want to hear from the community about the team. Can’t wait to see the data compiled.”
“I’m so sad at the lack of ambition from the front office and I’m terrified they aren’t going to change until it’s too late.”
“Holding out hope Loba gets sold in the summer and a new DP comes in to save the day.”
“Glad to be back in the East.”
“Counting down the days until my girlfriend leaves me for Nashville SC DP Olivier Giroud.”
Thanks to all 334 of you who responded to our first-ever fan survey! The responses you gave were fantastic and gave us some great insight into the pulse of the fanbase. If you want a more in-depth look, all the data can be accessed here.
We plan on making this a regular part of our continued coverage, so be on the look out for a similar survey following the 2023 MLS season.