Nashville SC To Spend Significantly on Final Roster Spots?
“We’re not coming to just participate, we’re coming to compete.” It’s a phrase Nashville SC owner John Ingram has used on a few occasions. Like introducing the club’s first DP signing Hany Mukhtar. Using his own private plane to fly him over for a weekend to get him signed. Whether owner, John Ingram, CEO Ian Ayre or General Manager Mike Jacobs, the front office has always said Nashville SC was going to spend. Not like Atlanta United or LAFC, but more than Cincinnati. Similar to Sporting KC where Mike Jacobs came from. That is the story the front office has told numerous times. Well, with only a few more roster sports to be filled it’s not really looking like that. The conclusion, Nashville SC will add another significant player or two before the season.
Current Roster Spend Looks Cheap
A little over a month ago, I looked at how Nashville SC’s roster compared to FC Cincinnati and Sporting KC. With the senior roster almost complete let’s take another peek. Total senior roster spending last year was approximately $12 million for KC, $8 million for Cincinnati and with about 3 players left, Nashville SC projects to about $6 million. What jumps out is the lack of players making more than the maximum salary budget charge for a single player of $530,000. As you can see based on 2019 salaries, KC had ten while Nashville projects to only have five. Needless to say, if Nashville signs three more players in this range the roster will look a lot better. If they don’t, it looks a lot like FC Cincinnati who only had three. Given Nashville SC looks to have spent just over an estimated $6 million on the roster that leaves $2 million for these players just to spend around the level of Cincinnati. Perhaps they are paying Mukhtar, Leal and Beckeles more than the $2.35 million I budgeted in, but it can’t be that much more?
More Money to Spend Now
Given the consistent message from the front office, I expect another DP signing or at least two TAM level additions before the Atlanta United match. Another center back and quality attacking piece are needed badly. I’m not alone in expecting a big signing before Leap Day. This week on The Socceresq Podcast Tim Sullivan said, “They’ll probably sign another DP before the season and then if they can get a 3rd DP at the mid season transfer window they’ll spend TAM to convert Leal into a TAM player”
Even if my salary numbers are off some, Nashville SC hasn’t spent like they claimed. Not yet anyway. Total senior roster spend looks to be fairly close to Cincinnati. I’m not saying they will be as bad on the field as Cincinnati. Cincinnati’s roster construction was too top heavy and included a DP bust in Adi. Nashville will be better. That said, total salary numbers are what they are. Unless the club adds another $4.0-$4.5 million to the payroll, the roster spend their first year in MLS will look a whole lot more like Cincinnati than KC. Just last month Mike Jacobs said, “Our goal is to be as competitive as possible straightaway.” That is only going to happen if they spend significantly more and soon.
Allocation and Transfer Money
Perhaps the club would argue that you need to factor in the $2.9 million transfer fee paid for Mukhtar. I don’t. The apples to apples comparison is what are you spending in salary on your senior roster. If Mukhtar is sold down the road the club wouldn’t say you should subtract that fee from the payroll. It’s just a separate investment line item in my mind. Also, on Tuesday, Sporting KC announced the signing of Alan Pulido for a franchise record transfer fee of near $10 million. You have to spend to keep up in today’s MLS.
Nashville SC has also spent about $2.5 million in allocation money to acquire players. This is accounting money that instead could have been used for its intended purpose to allow teams to spend more on the senior roster. Bottom line. From everything the club has said since day 1, there is clearly more money that should be spent on the roster very soon.
Keeping Some Powder Dry
Mike Jacobs has said multiple times Nashville would leave a roster spot or two open for the summer window. Makes sense. See how the team looks and be able to address any needs. Even if they add a $2.0 million DP in the summer window, they are still millions behind what KC spent unless that is their 3rd DP. I’ve heard a fan or two suggest the team is really waiting until 2022 and the new stadium to go all out. Hope that is not the case. If the club waits until the summer to acquire another lock starter or two, they really are just participating in MLS year 1. That would be a shame and something that isn’t going to draw in fans. Still lots to play out and I’m optimistic there are some big signings coming soon, but my current expectations for Nashville SC next year are modest.
Optimistic Nashville SC
Nashville signs another DP in the 90 days and then a 3rd in the summer. Hany Mukhtar and the new DP are better than advertised. Mukhtar plays about 3000 minutes and gets a high goal and assist total for the year. Everything runs through him. Leal, Accam, Badji all score some, usually through Mukhtar. Gary Smith plus Dax McCarty and Anibal Godoy is going to make this team a pain to play. Low scoring with a counter attacking goal being the most common formula to success. Just make the playoffs.
Pessimistic Nashville SC
This team is not deep with attacking talent. What if Hany Mukhtar isn’t a good as advertised? Name a player from Danish League that’s come to MLS and had success? It’s kind of a crap shoot. Or worse, what if he gets hurt? He’s not the biggest guy. Who becomes the teams’s play maker? Defense is the opposite issue. There is depth, but how good is it? I get it’s nice to have versatile players. Romney should start at left center back, but could fill in at left back if Lovitz has to miss a few matches. Anibaba could do the same from his right center back position. But does he even start opening day? And what position does Beckeles play most often? If you can’t figure out who your best back four are, is the quality as good as it should be? A long season fighting Vancouver not to finish last in the West.
Show Me The Money
It hasn’t been the best couple of weeks for Nashville SC. First, The Athletic reported struggling season ticket sales. Then, this week Meg Garner’s report that Mayor Cooper has raised questions over the stadium at the Fairgrounds. Something fans had hoped was finally in the past after the flea market buildings were complete. As for the roster, there is still time. That said, this is a huge two months for Nashville SC. One where all the comments about spending comes to fruition or is shown to have been just talk. It has been widely reported that Charlotte will be announced as the 30th MLS team next week at a fee of at least $300 million. That means the value of John Ingram’s club has more than doubled before the team even plays their first match. There are less than 80 days before the Atlanta United game. It’s time to invest a fraction of that in the Nashville SC roster.