TAMPA, Fla. (Jan. 11, 2018) – The United Soccer League (USL) announced its conference alignment for the 2018 season along with the home openers for each of its 33 clubs. Nashville Soccer Club was placed in the Eastern Conference and will begin its home USL season during the second weekend of the season on March 24th against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.
Before its first home USL game, Nashville SC will open the 2018 league season on the road against defending USL Cup champions Louisville City FC on March 17th. Both Louisville City and Pittsburgh will join Nashville SC in the East for 2018.
In the first weekend of the year, Nashville SC will immediately get a measuring stick game. The club will travel to Louisville to take on one of the best teams in the league in 2017. The champs finished the season first in the Eastern Conference with 62 points in 32 games, eight more points than the second place Charleston Battery.
“It’s a cracking opening fixture,” said Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith. “It should be a fantastic atmosphere in Louisville, and we'll be ready to test ourselves against the reigning champs.”
LCFC finished last season as the second-highest scoring team in the USL with 65 goals and tied for the league-lead shutouts with 15. Leading scorer Cameron Lancaster returns to the squad a year after scoring 11 goals, including the game winner in the USL Cup Final in the 89th minute.
Last season, Pittsburgh finished 13th out of 15 sides in the East, securing 36 points in the 32 games. It was the second consecutive season that the Hounds missed the playoffs after a First Round USL Cup exit in 2015.
The Hounds will have a new coaching staff this year headed by Bob Lilley. Lilley has been with the Rochester Rhinos of the USL the previous four seasons, garnering USL Coach of the Year honors in 2015. On his staff is recently hired assistant coach Mark Pulisic, father of Borussia Dortmund and U.S. National Team star Christian Pulisic.
“Pittsburgh Riverhounds will present a formidable challenge under the new leadership of Bob Lilley,” said Smith. “We should expect a very well organized and competitive team. It will be a great occasion, an exciting game, and the first chance for Nashville SC supporters to see our team firing on all cylinders.”
Nashville SC will be one of 16 clubs in the East. It joins the East with fellow USL newcomers ATL UTD 2, North Carolina FC and Indy Eleven. Other Eastern Conference teams include Charleston Battery, Charlotte Independence, FC Cincinnati, New York Red Bulls II, Ottawa Fury FC, Penn FC, Richmond Kickers, Tampa Bay Rowdies and Toronto FC II.
“The Eastern Conference looks competitive from top to bottom,” said Smith. “Everyone should be aware that there are never any easy games at a professional level. We also are looking forward two big, local derbies against Louisville City and FC Cincinnati which should get everyone’s pulse racing!”
A full 2018 USL schedule has yet to be released.