RESULTS: 2023 Nashville SC Fan Survey

With Nashville SC’s 2023 season officially in the history books, we wanted to get a sense for how the fanbase feels after the team’s fourth season in MLS.

We asked you to respond to our post-season fan survey, and we were blown away by the responses. Over 400 people responded to our broader MLS survey (you can see those results here), and we received over 350 responses to our Nashville SC survey. Full data on the survey can be accessed here.

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This is a significantly longer post than usual, but we think it’s important for fans to be able to express their opinions.

Fan demographics

Fans who took our survey come from all over Tennessee and the surrounding area. Fans responded from Knoxville, Chattanooga, and Cookville, with out-of-state fans from Huntsville, Alabama and Southern Kentucky chiming in.

The vast majority of fans who responded were located in Middle Tennessee.

Nashville SC’s MLS Performance

Nashville SC finished in seventh place in MLS’s Eastern Conference, with 49 points from 34 games, and were swept by Orlando City in Round One of the MLS Cup Playoffs. They were eliminated by Inter Miami CF in the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16, and made it to the inaugural Leagues Cup final, where they also fell to Miami.

When asked if Nashville SC’s 2023 season was a success, the response from fans was overwhelming: 75% voted “no”.

49.1% of fans rated their satisfaction with Nashville’s 2023 performance at a three out of five. Only 11.6% rated their satisfaction at a four, and just one fan out of 352 respondents rated their satisfaction at a five out of five.

When breaking it down by competition, fans were largely underwhelmed by Nashville’s performance in MLS. 53.7% of fans said they rated Nashville’s MLS performance two out of five, with 18.2% at one. Only 4.5% rated Nashville’s MLS performance at four or higher.

Fans didn’t hold back when asked to how they felt about Nashville’s MLS season.

“Tired, slow and sloppy.”

“It was consistently underwhelming to watch NSC play in 2023. It’s one thing to know you’re in a rebuilding phase or that your team is flat out bad, but Nashville were Supporters’ Shield contenders at the season’s midpoint and dominated in Leagues Cup. It was so exhausting to watch a good team play like a bad team week in, week out.”

“Below the standard they’ve set in previous seasons.”

“Disappointing to see a regression in overall performance and standing. Compounded by the strong beginning of the season showing that the team had the capacity for strong match results on a consistent level.”

“Complacent. We looked like we were just happy to be there at times. We got figured out mid-season and never reacted.”

“It looked very tired. The lack of depth is concerning, as is the overall age of the squad. Development of younger players doesn’t seem to be a priority, but for an ownership group that seems to be on the cheaper side of things, they need to make it a focus.”

“A 7th seed is simply not good enough. Not with this roster and especially not with how the season was going until July. I mean, we were in the conversation for the shield, and we finish 7th? Unacceptable.”

“Poor. We crawled into the playoffs and played how everyone thought we would. This is now the 4th year in a row we’ve made the playoffs and not made it close to the cup.”

“They played their hearts out. Leagues cup took way more out of us than anyone knew. The end of season showed this.”

“Making the playoffs isn’t really an accomplishment at this point where 9 out of 14 teams in the conference make it. Attendance is top 4 in the league, 23k season ticket holders, we should put a product on the field that reflects that. The last half of the season and especially the last several games were absolutely dreadful and perhaps worse, BORING. I’m a first string member and a lifelong soccer fan and I’m losing interest.”

“Lacking creativity going forward. Too defensive. I would not watch if Nashville wasn’t my home team.”

Nashville’s Leagues Cup run

Leagues Cup was exponentially more positive. 74.7% of fans rated Nashville’s run to the final at five out of five, with just 5.1% giving the tournament performance a three or lower.

Fans generally agreed that Leagues Cup impacted their overall view of the season; 29% rated its impact at three out of five, 24.7% at four, and 13.5% at five. When asked what they thought of the Leagues Cup run, here’s how they answered:

“Phenomenal. Even the loss to Toluca was a blast. The international competition was thrilling and the Boys In Gold showed out.”

“NSC blew away my expectations of this tournament. I wish we could have won, but to host the final and the world’s greatest player, it was great. However, it is also what broke the team.”

“I personally feel that it was a little bit of a fluke, as they had mostly home games, but they still beat some very tough sides on the road to the finals. I think they deserved it and it was a great run.”

“An absolute Cinderella story and I would change none of it. The loss hurts deeply but the run up to and performance in that final match was incredible. Just seemed to really take the wind out of our sails for the rest of the year and destroyed our team’s confidence.”

“Highlight of the year. The team got the maximum productivity out of most everyone. Showed how Gary’s style can be successful if executed properly.”

“In a vacuum, fantastic. In context to the games surrounding it, shows just how disappointing they were.”

“It’s hard to ask for more than beating the supporters shield winners, multiple Liga MX Gigantes, and taking a Messi-led squad to 11 penalties.”

“Doesn’t need to be explained but it should be noted we were pretty fortunate along the way. That said the final was amazing experience and one of the best games I’ve ever attended in any sport.”

“They were a team built for it and it’s why I became a fan this season. Hard to trade that run for anything, to be honest, other than maybe a Supporter’s Shield.”

Coaching performance

Fans were generally frustrated by the performance of Gary Smith and the coaching staff. Only 13% gave his performance a four or higher, with 34.4% at three and 32.1% at two.

Fans were also split on Smith’s future in Nashville, with 59.1% saying that Smith should not manage the team next season.

What did fans say?

“Didn’t help improve or grow the team. Players didn’t get better.”

“Lacked creativity in designing ways to get our best players the chances to create something or even have them on the field together.”

“It’s not the most exciting brand of soccer, but he put us in position to be competitive. Need to bolster midfield. If we strengthen midfield and we don’t improve, we will need to evaluate coaches.”

“The coaching staff continues to lead as though we are an expansion team. Satisfied with minimizing risk so they can keep matches close as opposed to playing with ambition and confidence. They’ve taken us as far as they can.”

“Gary and the coaching staff I think are the right fit still. Gary’s scheme worked for a large part of the year until it was found out. After that, we started to regress and Gary stubbornly didn’t change tactics.”

“Time to move on. Tactics have become stale and ‘my guy-ism’ has held the roster back.”

“Their coaching for the most part is consistent and tactical. The lack of execution comes down to the players. They are the primary reason for the disappointment of this season.”

“Our playing style is predictable, and the players seem uninspired, joyless and robotic.”

“Pass the ball to Hany cannot he the offensive tactic and that’s all we’ve seen in three seasons.”

“We have the reigning MVP and two-time Defender-of-the-Year in their primes and can’t win or score consistently. We may never have that combo at the same time ever again, so it feels like we’re wasting it.”

“I think he’s doing what they can with the roster he’s been given.”

“Mediocre at best. Seemed to push the right buttons for Leagues Cup, but the last part of the season was just a disaster.”

“Same s**t since the USL days.”

Style of play

51.4% of fans said that their team’s style of play was important to them, but not a deal-breaker, while 36.9% said style of play doesn’t matter if their team is winning.

78.7% of fans said they do not enjoy watching Nashville SC under their current style of play. 64.5% rated their satisfaction with Nashville’s tactical and stylistic approach at two or lower.

Here’s what fans said:

“Boring but useful.”

“The diamond was a nice change, but it seemed teams figured it out and it never was as effective as it was in the beginning.”

“No adjustments when something isn’t working. No midfield ability to advance. The only options are Hany doing something magical or getting to the end line for a cross.”

“The style of play is for a team who knows they are the worst team on the field. I don’t believe they were majority of the time, but that’s how they played.”

“Success is measured in silverware. Win the game, I don’t care how.”

“We play not to lose.”

“Pretty boring, but I understand that we are best on countering. Wish we had more than just that option to be a threat to the opposing team.”

“Parking the bus is for losers. They proved that the final two months. We have to address the attacking situation. We can’t rely on 2 guys to score all the goals.”

“Sherwin-Williams, the “Official Paint of Nashville SC”, should activate their sponsorship around a ‘Paint-Drying Play of the Week’.”

“Not aggressive enough. We saw a higher-pressing and faster-paced team in the Leagues Cup, which was awesome. But in the MLS the coaching staff seems fine to just sit back and go for 1-0 wins.”

“Unbearable. It’s boring to watch unless Hany is on fire. It also hurts the exposure of this team to gain new fans.”

When asked what they would change to make Nashville’s style more entertaining, here’s what fans said:

“I honestly don’t really care how something looks if it’s effective. Everyone focuses on that when the team is losing as if Nashville wasn’t happily supporting the Mike Vrabel Tennessee Titans when they were making the AFC title game. Win games and people will learn to love the style. It’s that simple.”

“Better midfield tempo and orchestration. Minimize the need for “cross into the box and pray” play style and maximize the effect a youthful and energetic midfield could bring to our pacey wings and dangerous attacking options.”

I would like to see more speed, youth and creativity in the midfield.”

“Watching a sport IS entertainment. It’s insane to think we should change how we work on field purely for entertainment. This is a competition we’re trying to win, not a Netflix series.”

“Anything but a low block at home defending the supporters’ side in the second half. It’s a disgrace to the sport in a league with the most pronounced statistical home field advantage in the entire world.”

“I think if they could get another deep lying passer to take pressure off of Mukhtar they will be really fun to watch.”

“Give Hany the support he deserves. If I was Hany, I would be demanding a trade at this point. Support the man – or let him go. It’s unfair to hold him back with our style of play. Hany is too good for this system.”

Transfer performance

Fans were mixed when asked to rate Nashville’s performance in the transfer and trade markets. 37% of fans rated their satisfaction at two or lower, while 25.3% voted four or higher. Here’s what fans thought about Nashville’s general performance in the transfer windows:

“They wait too late. We have to bolster the roster in the winter, not 60% through the regular season.”

“I wished we would have brought in at least one useable midfielder.”

“Gregus, should have never sold him.”

“We sent away solid players for more GAM, then brought in players we didn’t play, then spent an absolute eternity on our DP. I understand the need to focus on the business side of things but this is a stupid way to manage a club roster.”

However, they were unitedly positive about the signing of DP striker Sam Surridge, with 24.1% grading his signing as a three, 44.6% at four, and 24.7% at five.

“He’s excellent. His lack of production isn’t his fault aside from a couple bad misses. He’s acclimating to a league and he came into the team when there was a clear leave of cohesion. I have him scoring 15+ next season if we can bolster our midfield with someone who can play those quick through balls more regularly.”

“It’s not my money, so I think it was worth it if only for the Club America game.”

“Still to be determined, started strong got injured and struggled. Already better than the Ake Loba signing, but need to see what he looks like with full preseason and more settled in.”

“He can be a very good signing, it’s rare to get a young European striker to make the move, I hope having a full pre-season with the team benefits him.”

“Was a good signing that took too long to complete.”

“He is exactly what we needed, tough to come in from Europe’s offseason into the middle of an MLS campaign. I expect next year to be a breakout from him.”

Roster needs

Nashville fans overwhelmingly agreed that midfield is the greatest area of need on Nashville’s current roster; 94.3% of respondents selected it as their biggest concern.

Here’s what they said about Nashville’s current roster and what they want to see in the transfer market:

“I love Randall [Leal], but we get about 10 games with him a season and his salary is crippling us.

“Midfield on the whole just isn’t creative – not sure if they have it in them and are just stuck in Gary’s tactics or if they just don’t have the skill. Something needs to change here.”

“I think we have plenty of talent, a few stars, but we haven’t been using it well. Some people are massively overpaid too (McNaughton has been about 50x more valuable than Anunga).”

“Midfield is old & slow. Zero creativity outside of Hany when he’s there. No threatening options.”

“We have a few very good players and a few mediocre players and many who are not MLS quality.”

“Midfield is old, no backup outside backs, scant offensive options.”

“Doesn’t seem like there’s enough players on the bench that can make an impact.”

“No reliable goalscorer beyond Hany. No offensive depth. We may be fine in ’24, but beyond that, there should be more turnover.”

“Old. Very old. I’m not trying to be rude, but you can only have so many guys on the wrong side of 30 before you have to question what we’re doing here.”

“It’s going to be an arms race of talent and spending money over the next couple of years w/ Messi & Co. Our team WILL have to spend more money than they’re comfortable with to be more than a first round exit. If only they were rich enough to own a soccer team… wait!”

“If Dax is your most consistent midfield enabler and he’s retiring, who takes the mantle? No one else has shown a glimmer of his vision on the field.”

“We have eight or more players in their 30s, six of whom are starters. With the new stadium we expected more for this team.”

Geodis Park

Fans were overwhelmingly positive about Geodis Park. 92.4% rated the 30,000 seat stadium at four or higher. Similarly, 88% rated the overall matchday experience at four or higher. These numbers were almost identical to our preseason survey.

However, parking and transportation were the primary complaints. 81.8% rated the current parking situation at a three or lower, while 79.2% said their satisfaction with the ease of transportation to Geodis is a three or lower.

Here’s what fans said about the stadium:

“Love it. Not as visually dynamic in term of stands than other new parks, but a great home.”

“I’m an out of towner that’s been to one game. I think the stadium compares well to some of the best in the league. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Parking was a nightmare, but inside the stadium the experience was great.”

“Great park with awful parking. Honestly feels like we might’ve been too ambitious with 30,000 seats, but when it’s full it’s rowdy.”

“Geodis park is beautiful and people still complaining about parking have no problem solving skills. However, the concessions are laughably expensive and I no longer buy them and the halftime music is becoming absolutely insufferable.”

“I fell in love with the stadium the second I first walked in. There are no bad seats and you always feel close to the action.”

“Parking sucks, concessions are overpriced. Supporter chants are just the same as every other MLS team. Not a whole lot to set it apart but it’s still fun. The magic is gone though and it is what it is at this point.”

“Haters be damned. I don’t care where you put your car and I hardly think that should be a team priority. Experience is great inside the stadium.”

“Get some effing lights on the stairs at the south end. It’s a shadowy illusory disaster waiting to happen. Can GAM money be redirected to lights?”

“The stadium is great, the surrounding area and parking will only improve with time. On-field performance is failing to get engagement from fans which is hurting the culture on game day.”

Supporters Culture

Fans were generally positive about Nashville supporters’ culture; 57.7% rated it at four or higher. Their responses toward the Backline were more mixed, with 38.4% of respondents at four or higher.

Here’s what they said:

“I think we should all remember how young of a club we are and how fast we have risen. There will be growing pains but I’m glad we’re growing.”

“They are okay but seeing the section half filled for some games is kind of embarrassing.”

“I think we are of the best fans in the country. We are always loud, always get good attendance, and we didn’t become sellouts when Messi came to town unlike the NYRB supporters.”

“Just a bunch of people who think they’re better fans than everyone. Made the club fix the tifo rig and don’t even use it.”

“It has been awful since Stephen left. Haven’t sat there since he left. The Capo’s cant lead chants and then get mad when they lose the crowd.”

“I enjoy that we aren’t afraid to be feisty. We’ve booed Gareth Bale, told Messi he sucks, boo’d the refs and my favorite – boo’d the players who flop too much.”

“Did they ever get their discounted beers?”

Local media coverage

Fans were generally negative about the traditional media coverage of Nashville SC, with 38.1% of fans rating their satisfaction with local print, TV and radio coverage at three out of five, and 45.4% at two or lower.

Sentiment towards independent coverage was more positive; 59.3% said their satisfaction was at four or higher, with just 11.4% at two or lower.

When asked which sources fans utilize to get their Nashville SC news, Broadway Sports Media, Club & Country, Pharmaceutical Soccer and The Tennessean were the highest vote-getters. It’s worth pointing out that as the host of this survey, votes were likely skewed in Broadway’s favor.

Here’s what fans had to say about local media coverage:

“The club has basically no consistent record of earning local traditional media coverage. It’s improved in the last year, but I’d tie that a bit more to the team making a cup run more than anything else.”

Independent Media have done a far better job than the major local media has and maybe that’s how it should be… They tend to know more about the minutiae going on with the team and they care more about getting the answers the fans want to know.”

“The Tennessean is missing out by assigning reporters to Taylor Swift but not NSC.”

“When posting the team pressers, would it be possible to have the media have a microphone too? It’s hard to hear the questions. Would like to hear to have more context.”

“TV needs to do a much, much better job at covering the team. The local blogs & independent sources are doing an excellent job, however.”

“I usually see very level headed coverage. It is fair and also very forgiving of major flaws in this club at the coaching/admin level.”

“Not critical enough, especially of Smith. Too many sports generalists who don’t get soccer and fall back on stats to mask lack of experience watching or playing the game.”

“It’s lacking. Supporters shouldn’t have to start media coverage. Local news and newspapers that reach everyone barely covers it. So you only get coverage if you seek it out. Not a way to grow a fan base.”

“They cover what gets clicks and engagement. So instead of complaining about the lack of coverage, we should actively engage with what content they do put out.”

“I find NSC Stats, Club & Country, the bald Arsenal fan who hosts Pharmaceutical Soccer (I’m so sorry I can’t recall his name), and Ben Wright to be invaluable Twitter follows.”

“Would love to see the club promoting more independent coverage.”

Thanks to everyone who took our 2023 post-season survey. We think it’s an important way to take the pulse of the Nashville fanbase, and plan on doing surveys like this before and after every season.

Author: Ben Wrightis the Director of Soccer Content and a Senior MLS Contributor for Broadway Sports covering Nashville SC and the US National Team. Previously Ben was the editor and a founder of Speedway Soccer, where he has covered Nashville SC and their time in USL before journeying to Major League Soccer since 2018. Raised in Louisville, KY Ben grew up playing before a knee injury ended his competitive career. When he is not talking soccer he is probably producing music, drinking coffee or hanging out with his wife and kids. Mastodon

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