Nashville SC

MLS: Nashville to West, Inter Miami to East

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Major League Soccer made an – excuse the pun – major announcement on Monday, allocating Inter Miami CF to the Eastern Conference while placing Nashville SC in the Western Conference.

This puts the 26-team league at 13 teams in each conference – and MLS could have sent the Chicago Fire to the Western Conference instead of Nashville – but it also brings up an interesting scheduling change. With so many teams and still only 34 regular season match days, for the first time in MLS history, every team isn’t guaranteed at least one game against each opponent in the league.

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It could see an end to the fan-led Supporters Shield as we know it. Although it was artificially weighted if a conference has multiple horrible teams – see the Eastern Conference this year, even though LAFC won the Supporters Shield by a mile – the Supporters Shield winner could realistically say it was the best out of the whole league, and had to play everyone in the league on the schedule.

Starting in 2020, teams will play each of their conference opponents twice, home and away, leading to 24 games. The final 10 games will be against the other conference, likely with five home and five away. Now, a team like Atlanta United can beat up on expansion sides like Inter Miami and other struggling teams such as Cincinnati FC and the Chicago Fire, without potentially having to play LAFC.

The schedule, which is pretty uniform right now, will get a bit messy in 2021 with only one club – Austin FC – entering. Then, in 2022, Sacramento Republic and Saint Louis FC join, keeping it an odd number (29) of teams in the league.

With MLS’ remarkable expansion over the past decade, it was only a matter of time before the league became too big for a true Supporters Shield race, but the main worry will be making sure the league has enough home-grown talent to sustain adding 4 teams from now through 2022. That’s around 120 new spots for players to fill, and even with the lax foreign limits and opportunities for dual nationals or those with U.S. Green Cards, it will be MLS’ greatest challenge to keep raising the level of the league on a yearly basis, as well as grow young American stars.

Miami and Nashville stock rosters in MLS expansion draft

Photo credit: Minnesota United / Twitter: @MNUFC
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Major League Soccer expansion teams Nashville and Miami filled out their rosters for next season via the league’s expansion draft Tuesday.

[ REPORT: Spurs, Mourinho in discussions to replace Pochettino ]

The two teams selected five players each from a pool of 222 left unprotected by their current MLS teams.

Miami added defender Ben Sweat, a Florida native, from NYCFC with its first selection. Sweat, a first-round draft pick by the Columbus Crew in 2014, has played three seasons in New York. This past season he appeared in 18 games with 13 starts.

Miami also added Cincinnati defender Alvas Powell, LAFC midfielder Lee Nguyen, Columbus midfielder Luis Argudo and Seattle backup goalkeeper Bryan Meredith.

“We’re excited about what we were able to accomplish with this draft,” said Inter Miami Sporting Director Paul McDonough. “We feel we are gaining momentum ahead of the 2020 season.”

With its first pick, Nashville selected Minnesota striker Abu Danladi, who played in 24 games this past season with four starts and a pair of goals.

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Nashville also selected Portland defender Zarek Valentin, New England defender Jalil Anibaba, Atlanta forward Brandon Vazquez and Sporting Kansas City defender Jimmy Medranda.

Nashville traded Valentin to the Houston Dynamo for goalkeeper Joe Willis. The expansion team also acquired goalkeeper Adrian Zendejas from Sporting Kansas City in exchange for allocation money and a 2020 International roster spot, and got allocation money from Cincinnati in exchange for Vazquez.

Nashville also acquired defender Daniel Lovitz from the Montreal Impact in exchange for allocation money and a 2020 international roster spot.

[ MORE: Where to next for Pochettino? ]

Miami traded allocation money for Cincinnati’s No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft.

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry and Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts, a Nashville native, helped to announce Nashville’s picks at an expansion draft party. Earlier this week, Nashville announced it would host Atlanta United in the team’s first official match on Feb. 29.

Inter Miami’s first home match will be March 14 against the LA Galaxy at the new Fort Lauderdale Stadium.

The Galaxy also re-signed midfielder Sebastian Lletget.

Report: Nashville acquires Dax McCarty, Dave Romney

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Nashville SC has added two more players with MLS experience ahead of its maiden voyage in the league, reports The Athletic’s Paul Tenorio.

The more notable name is Dax McCarty, the 32-year-old defensive midfielder whose game has been consistent as a mainstay for the Chicago Fire and New York Red Bulls since 2011.

Reba, Wynonna, Dax. Gingers and Nashville have a long history.

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McCarty has 407 appearances in 14 MLS seasons since debuting for FC Dallas at age 19, a steady passer and tackler who reads the game well.

He’ll cost Nashville about $100,000 in combined allocation money to go with a second round pick, and almost certainly be at the crux of the expansion side’s midfield.

Tenorio says Nashville has also traded for LA Galaxy defender Dave Romney, a 26-year-old with 104 appearances.

Romney has scored five goals and added five assists, and cost the new club $225,000.

Nashville adds 11-cap Costa Rican winger for MLS debut

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Nashville SC has purchased another attacking talent ahead of its first season in Major League Soccer.

The player is Costa Rican speedster Randall Leal, a 22-year-old left winger currently with Saprissa in his native country. He’s 11-times capped by Los Ticos, but is yet to score or assist for his country.

[ MORE: USMNT mid Williams signs in Cyprus ]

Leal had been abroad with Belgium’s KV Mechelen, but only managed an assist in 19 matches from 2015-18.

From NashvilleSC.com:

“Randall is an exciting young attacking midfielder with bags of potential,” said Nashville SC general manager Mike Jacobs. “He has the ability to influence matches in a variety of ways and has demonstrated that caliber on both the domestic and international stage.”

He has two goals and two assists in 10 matches this season, and has registered six goals and six assists in 38 matches since coming home from Europe.

Nashville now boasts:

Leal
Hany Mukhtar (Designated Player)
Aníbal Godoy
David Accam
Derrick Jones
Cameron Lancaster
Daniel Ríos

Nashville SC signs first Designated Player

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David Accam’s got himself a strike partner.

Nashville SC announced the signing of its first Designated Plater on Tuesday, about eight months away from its first Major League Soccer match.

[ MORE: What we’ve learned from PL so far ]

The player is German midfielder Hany Mukhtar, who will spend the rest of the season on loan to current club Brondby before moving to MLS full-time.

The 24-year-old attacking midfielder also plays right and left wing, and represented Germany at nearly every youth level. Mukhtar also has Sudanese eligibility through his father..

He joined Hertha Berlin’s academy at age 7, and has been on the books for the German side as well as Benfica and Red Bull Salzburg.

Mukhtar made 10 appearances in the Bundesliga, and overall has 28 goals in 134 professional games. For Brondby, his stats amount to 26 goals and 34 assists in 120 appearances.

On the surface, Mukhtar is ready-made to be an upper level MLS player and deserving of DP status.