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Nashville group bidding for MLS expansion team unites with USL club

Major League Soccer has come a long way from 10 teams that started in 1996 to the 22 that kicked off the 2017 season.

In an effort to strengthen its bid to acquire an MLS expansion franchise, Nashville Soccer Holdings LLC has acquired a majority interest in DMD Soccer, the owner of USL expansion side Nashville SC.

Nashville SC, which will begin play in the second-tier USL starting in 2018, already has an under-23 amateur team playing in the Premier Development League, in what amounts to the fourth tier of the U.S. soccer pyramid. 

"Nashville has arrived as a soccer city," Nashville Soccer Holdings's John Ingram said in a statement. "Our USL team is preparing for its inaugural season, we are hosting two world-class matches this summer and the city is firmly in the hunt to win an MLS expansion team. Music City is Soccer City."

Nashville is one of 12 cities vying to fill four available expansion slots. Several of the hopefuls have engaged in efforts to make their bid stand out. Those efforts have ranged from high profile statements like Phoenix's acquisition of forward Didier Drogba, to North Carolina FC's decision to partner with two area youth soccer teams.

In Nashville's case, there was a desire to align all of the local soccer interests under one flag.

"Our effort to bring MLS to Nashville and the mission of DMD Soccer are now jointly committed to elevate and expand professional soccer in Music City," Ingram said. "We plan to give Nashville SC fans an exceptional soccer experience, starting with this season's debut of the organization's PDL team, which will lead to a successful debut in the USL as we continue to grow the game in Nashville at every level."

Nashville SC began last year when DMD acquired the USL franchise. Interest in a USL team was driven by the success of the former Nashville FC, an amateur team that played for three years in the National Premier Soccer League.

David Dill led the original Nashville SC investor group, which includes local entrepreneurs Marcus Whitney and Chris Redhage.

"John Ingram has a long history supporting sports in Nashville," said Dill. "He will be a driving force in Nashville SC's ownership group as we move our vision forward, which is to provide professional soccer to the region's passionate fans.

"Nashville SC has grown from the grassroots, and now John's commitment speaks volumes about the future of soccer in Nashville and helps Nashville SC grow while unifying soccer interests in our city."

MLS has said that it will select two expansion cities by the end of 2017, with another two to be chosen in 2018. The other contenders include Sacramento, San Diego, Phoenix, Cincinnati, Detroit, Tampa/St. Petersburg, Charlotte, Raleigh/Durham, San Antonio, St. Louis, and Indianapolis.

Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

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