On Saturday, Nashville SC will play their first game ever. On December 20th, 2017, Nashville was granted the MLS’s 24th franchise. The organization has come a long way since then and now has a full 30 man MLS roster.
Nashville SC’s opponent, Atlanta United, finished last season with a record of 18-4-12 and lost to Toronto FC in the Eastern Conference Final. The season prior however, Atlanta won the MLS Cup handily after defeating Portland 2-0. They won the Cup in 2018 in just their second season as a franchise. Striker, Josef Martinez, set an MLS single-season record with 35 goals. Martinez registered 3 hat tricks in 2018 adding to his his total of 6 and setting an MLS career record. He is the fastest player in league history to reach this milestone. Martinez followed up his record breaking season with 27 goals and a new record. Martinez set an MLS record for most consecutive matches with a goal with 15 and he was just 3 goals behind the MLS goal leader.
Atlanta United has been one of the most dominant expansion teams in league history and they are a very worthy opponent for Nashville SC’s first opponent. At this point, even just a day before the season begins, it is hard to tell how Nashville will be. Last season's MLS expansion team, FC Cinnicnati, finished the season with a record of 6-6-22 and a goal differential of -44, 20 less than the next closest team.
The MLS has a salary cap of just $4.05 million with contracts ranging from $200,000-$1,000,000. To put it into context, the NFL has a salary cap of nearly $200,000,000 and contracts ranging from $510,000-$35,000,000.
Nashville has signed some high quality players over the last couple of months such as CAM Hany Mukhtar. Mukhtar is Nashville’s biggest signing with a combined transfer fee of around $3 million. Another one of Nashville’s biggest acquisitions is CB Walker Zimmerman.
Zimmerman was sold to Nashville from LAFC for a record breaking $1.25m. This is the highest transfer fee for a defender within the MLS in league history. Zimmerman was drafted in 2013 and has played in the MLS for both FC Dallas and LAFC. Zimmerman also has some time with the U.S. National Team and will likely be a very important defender for Nashville.
It is really hard to predict the lineup for Nashville’s first game but this is my prediction:
I based this off of what I have seen from the players thus far and from their performance on past teams. I think the next players up would be CB Jalil Anibaba, LB Brayan Beckless, and CAM Daniel Rios. The biggest thing that stands out to me in looking at Nashville’s opening day roster, is the abundance of defenders. Nashville has many strong center backs and will have many options going forward.
We have all been waiting for Nashville's first game for many months and it has finally arrived. Nashville’s season could go similar to Atlanta’s second year or it could go like Cincinnati's first. The season could go any way but it will undoubtedly be exciting to watch. Nashville’s opening weekend will be extremely entertaining and it will hopefully be a great season.