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REPORT: Nashville selected for MLS expansion, could start as early as 2019

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The league’s next market looks to be the Music City.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Tennessee Titans Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Team 24 in Major League Soccer looks like it may be Nashville, Tennessee.

According to a report by MLSSoccer.com’s Jeff Rueter, the city of Nashville has been selected as the league’s next expansion market. Rueter reports that the new team, presumably upcoming USL side Nashville FC, will start play in the first division in 2019. The tweet has since been deleted.

Nashville has been gathering a great deal of steam of late as it has pursued entry into the league. A wealthy ownership group - including billionaire John Ingram and members of the Wilf family, owners of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings - and a plan for a soccer-specific stadium near the city’s fairgrounds that will be voted on by the joint city-county council on Monday has helped it quickly gain solid footing in the eyes of MLS.

Ingram owns a portion of Nashville SC, who likely will play a single season in the USL beginning in the spring before moving to MLS.

Nashville’s potential entry equals a natural rivalry with Atlanta United. With the two cities separated by just 250 miles and less than four hours, having the two teams duke it out on the field in a year and a half will be a boost for MLS. No doubt that Atlanta’s success has spurred the league toward seeking further expansion markets in the South, and it looks like Nashville is it.

No official announcement has been made by the league or by city officials and as such, Nashville mayor Megan Barry stressed on Twitter that the city had not yet been awarded a bid. Alexi Lalas also stated that league sources had told him that the report was false.

We’ll keep an eye on this story and pass along more as it develops.