NASHVILLE — Ian Ayre has been in Nashville less than two months, but he’s making progress in his role as CEO of Nashville’s MLS franchise set to join the league in 2020.
First up for Ayre is the hiring of a general manager, which will happen in the coming weeks. The formation of the technical staff was one of many topics he touched on during a roundtable with reporters Tuesday.
“In terms of recruitment, general manager is priority, so I’m doing a lot of work interviewing and turning the circle on the closure of that,” Ayre said. “I would expect that in the next four to six weeks we’ll make an announcement.
“I’m pleased to say there have been some very good candidates. It’s always difficult to find somebody who ticks every box, but certainly found some great candidates who fit most of the profiles we’ve expected to find and narrowed that down to a short list, and in the middle of trying to complete that process.”
The first quarter of 2019 will be crucial to the team’s growth. Ayre expects to hire the majority of his staff before the new year and use those first months to round out branding and define the name of the franchise. Ayre wouldn’t say if the new MLS side will or won’t keep the Nashville SC name carried by the city’s United Soccer League franchise.
“I think it’s going to be important to get as many people in place by the turn of the year as we can so we can utilize 2019 to build out,” Ayre said. “We’ll launch identity probably early in the new year, no defined date.
“I think we’ll plan to launch early in Q1. Some of the reasoning behind that lends itself to what we’re already doing in the city. Not trying to create too much confusion around the time when our USL team is just going through its process for renewals for next year. We’ve been trying to mindful and respectful of that, and for the supporters as well we don’t create confusion. We’re confident we have the timing right and the execution for that. We’re not completely finished.”
When it comes to the roster-building process, which will follow the launch of the name and technical staff searches, Ayre might consider doing something similar to FC Cincinnati, which added Fanendo Adi and Fatai Alashe in the summer ahead of its 2019 MLS expansion season.
“I think it’s definitely something to consider, and I think Cincinnati have come about it well this year,” Ayre said. “The value of bringing anybody in 2019, in our case, helps you with that 30-man roster for 2020. It absolutely would be on our radar. I couldn’t say when or how much, or to what extent at this stage. I think it’s a smart tactic. I think it gets people in the building and gives you the opportunity to develop somebody who is maybe not completely ready at that point in time. It’s certainly part of the mix, and I think they’ve done a good job of it.”
One hurdle already cleared is the stadium deal finalized a week ago. The Nashville Fairgrounds site will be ready for the 2021 season. Until then, the club hopes to use Nissan Stadium, home of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans and host of Tuesday’s United States men’s national team clash with Mexico.
“That is the plan because we won’t have our own stadium until 2021,” Ayre said. “Nissan would be obvious choice. We’re still in those discussions and we’re hopeful that will be the venue.”
Ayre, who recently met with Atlanta United president Darren Eales and is expected to go on a tour around MLS sites in the near future, wouldn’t specifically comment on the budget the team will have to build the squad, but he emphasized certain features he’ll use to build it.
“One of the things I feel is very important is that we really start quite soon, in terms of our scouting and analysis right across the key markets,” Ayre said. “There’s no question the South American markets delivered real value to MLS and that’s something we’ll be very focused on. From my own experience and the experience of the people that we’ll hire, being able to connect with all those key markets is going to be essential.
“The one thing I would say is part of my decision to come here was: “What do we want to be? And what do the owners want from this opportunity?” And they didn’t just come to take part, they came here to compete. So, I expect us to assemble a team on and off the pitch, and the facilities that go with it, to compete. What does that mean? It means we’ll take the budget we’re allocated when we get to that and we’ll do the best we can do.”
With fewer than 18 months until the team’s first kickoff, plenty of important decisions still have to be made.