Over the weekend, Cashman Field and First Tennessee Park both saw their new USL tenant host a large crowd for a preseason contest against an MLS club.
For 2018, First Tennessee Park will serve as the home of the Nashville Sounds (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) and the USL’s expansion Nashville SC. Meanwhile, Cashman Field will also be both an MiLB and USL venue for the coming year, hosting both the Las Vegas 51s (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) and expansion Las Vegas Lights FC.
While the USL regular season does not begin until March, both ballparks were home to high-profile exhibitions on Saturday. Sister site Soccer Stadium Digest has more on the games, but Nashville SC hosted MLS’s Atlanta United FC, while Lights FC welcomed MLS’s Montreal Impact.
At both ballparks, the games proved to be a major draw. An announced crowd of 9,059 was on hand at First Tennessee Park for Nashville’s loss to Atlanta. Out at Cashman Field, an total of 10,387 fans reportedly turned out for Lights FC’s loss to Montreal.
The teams are arriving at minor league ballparks with unique narratives. While Lights FC marks the latest addition to a city with a growing professional sports scene, Nashville is sure to draw plenty of attention now that it has been confirmed that the city will become home to an MLS expansion franchise in the coming years.
Both Nashville and Las Vegas also help to grow the trend of MiLB teams and USL clubs sharing the same facility. Similar examples of this played out last year in Reno, Louisville, Tulsa and Harrisburg. Meanwhile, all four USL expansion clubs for 2018–including Nashville, Las Vegas, Fresno FC, and Atlanta United 2–will play at minor league ballparks, with Fresno utilizing Chukchansi Park and United 2 playing at Coolray Field. Another addition to the USL/MiLB landscape comes in Tacoma, where both the Tacoma Rainiers (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) and Seattle Sounders 2 will play at Cheney Stadium. The USL club is pursuing its own soccer-specific stadium adjacent to Cheney Stadium, but is expected to play at the ballpark for at least the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
Image of Nashville SC exhibition at First Tennessee Park courtesy Nashville SC.