MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – There’s usually no love lost between Memphis and Nashville, and Wednesday night that sometimes bitter in-state rivalry played out on the soccer field at AutoZone Park.
Memphis 901 FC leaders said the first season in the United Soccer League is already proving to be a smashing success, with nearly 7,000 fans showing up on average each match.
Wednesday’s match included the ceremonial pre-game guitar smash by University of Memphis basketball coach Penny Hardaway and the Bluff City Mafia’s even earlier pregame march and pep rally to AutoZone Park.
Pro soccer is thriving in Memphis, halfway through the Memphis 901 FC’s inaugural season in the USL.
“I think we are really happy about where we are at right now,” Memphis 901 FC President Craig Unger said.
Going into Wednesday’s near sellout against the Nashville Soccer Club at AutoZone Park, the Memphis 901 FC is third among expansion teams in average attendance and seventh in the 36-team league.
“Memphis is underestimated and the fans are awesome,” Memphis 901 FC fan Hannah Tessaro said.
“It’s bigger than everyone thought, I mean there’s so many competitive teams out there at a youth level,” Memphis 901 FC fan Charles Dodge said.
Memphis 901 FC fans especially brought the enthusiasm in the anticipated match against their in-state rivals.
“Nashville and Memphis are just completely different cities in general, and I feel like that Memphis can really show up tonight,” Memphis 901 FC fan Tiana Pierce said.
“This was the date when the schedule came out, everyone circled it,” Unger said.
Nine home matches remain after Wednesday, and Memphis 901 FC leaders are hopeful the strong attendance so far this season doesn’t cool off when the calendar flips to fall.
“We have a lot of home games between August, September into October, the weather is going to be absolutely great and beautiful here,” Unger said.
Nashville is scheduled to become a Major League Soccer team next year, but the Memphis 901 FC leaders are hopeful the teams can still play exhibition matches in the years ahead.