Supporter-Owned Soccer Team Fights For Its Future In Nashville

On July 3, Chris Jones had 44,835 people over to his place to watch the U.S. Men's National Team play a Gold Cup tune-up against Guatemala. As President of Business Development for Nashville FC, a team in America's fourth-tier National Professional Soccer League, it was the biggest crowd Jones had seen at the team's home field for a soccer game. "There was so much pride, and public display of that pride. I found myself wanting to soak it all in," Jones said, reflecting on it later.

Jones was not just moved by the enthusiasm; he hoped that he was seeing the future. "I envisioned that if Nashville ever made it to the MLS ranks," he said, "or even USL, NASL level, this is what it could look like on a weekly basis."

A team like Nashville FC has to dream big. But while club soccer's rapid growth in the United States makes such an ascent a possibility, Nashville FC's present is interesting enough. Nashville FC is owned and controlled by its supporters, who vote on every club decision. All of the supporters (including Jones) purchase the right to participate; it's a non-profit organization, and all the funds raised from membership fees go to build the club. There are teams like this, of various shapes and sizes, in many other countries. There is nothing quite like it in American soccer, which means that the future of Nashville FC is also the future of an idea—that something other than the top-down sports ownership model can work in the United States.

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