When Nashville SC makes the leap from being a USL Championship club to a Major League Soccer side in 2020, it will bring Gary Smith along for the ride.
Nashville SC announced Wednesday that Smith, the head coach for the USL club, will be retained when the team joins MLS next year.
“As we set out to build our MLS team and (general manager Mike Jacobs) and I conducted our search throughout the game for a head coach, we always kept coming back to Gary as the first and best candidate for the job,” Nashville SC CEO Ian Ayre said in a statement.
For Smith, 50, the MLS landscape is not a foreign one. After working as a scout for Arsenal, he became the head coach of the Colorado Rapids in 2008 and led the team to an MLS Cup title in 2010. He is the first – and still only – English manager to win an MLS Cup.
At the end of the 2011 season, Smith’s contract at Colorado was not renewed. He then returned to England to manage Stevenage, which at the time played in League One, the third tier of English soccer. He had a record of 22-26-19 there. After two seasons, he came back to the U.S. to manage the Atlanta Silverbacks, then of NASL.
Smith joined Nashville SC in 2017 and coached them to a 12-9-13 record in USL play, good enough for a playoff appearance. Nashville also won three U.S. Open Cup games in its inaugural season, which included a victory over the Rapids of MLS.
“I am grateful to John Ingram, Ian Ayre, and the rest of our ownership for their faith in me to lead this club on the field as we join Major League Soccer,” Smith said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing to work with Mike Jacobs as we build our MLS squad for next season. I love the community, the fans and the excitement around soccer in Nashville, and I am delighted that this city will continue to be my home for the coming years.”
Before becoming a coach, Smith, a native of Harlow, England, had a long career as a midfielder, playing for several clubs in England.
A statement from Nashville SC said that Smith will continue to work with Jacobs to build Nashville’s MLS roster. The club has already signed two players to MLS contracts in Daniel Rios and Cameron Lancaster.
“We need someone who understands the nuances of the U.S. game, someone that has experience of working with domestic and international players, someone with a history of developing young talent, someone who believed in our vision for the club and most importantly someone who is a winner,” Ayre said. “Gary fits that bill perfectly. Alongside those key attributes, the value of the continuity of having Gary already at Nashville SC and working with our team for the 2019 USL season make for a fantastic outcome.”
Nashville begins its second USL season Saturday when it hosts expansion side Loudon United at First Tennessee Park.