NASHVILLE – The Nashville Palace in Music Valley has been the starting point for many country music icons, including Randy Travis. Artists have played the legendary venue for years.
On Thursday night, it played host to Nashville SC’s second annual FIFA tournament in which fans and players went head-to-head in a double-elimination video game tournament. Supporter Hunter Couteaud took home the title with an unbeaten run.
The bracket was full of fans ready to test their mettle.
“It really is, for a lot of folks, the gateway to the sport itself,” Nashville SC general manager Chris Jones said. “Playing online, playing with friends, even folks who aren’t really fans of the game initially become fans through FIFA. It seems like more and more every year and every day, so seeing the turnout we have out here tonight is pretty cool.”
Nashville midfielder Taylor Washington was on hand and participated in the tournament, making it all the way to the quarterfinals of the winners bracket before departing. In his last game before leaving, he came back from a 2-0 deficit in the second half to win 3-2 at the death.
Washington’s FIFA experience came from some real-world experience when he was animated into the game three years ago.
“I was in FIFA 16 back when I was drafted,” he said. “I had a 50 rating, I was one of the worst players in the MLS. Just working my way to get back to it. Hopefully next time I won’t have a 50 rating.”
Even those who weren’t playing or were eliminated got to enjoy food, drinks, four screens of FIFA action and a live broadcast of the 2018 USL Cup Final from Louisville. Some also won raffle prizes, including Nashville SC hats and sweatshirts.
Defender Justin Davis was the emcee for the event and was thrilled with the turnout.
“I think it shows how the club has grown in the community,” Davis said. “The turnout here, even in the offseason, shows how popular soccer is. FIFA is a completely different crowd than your typical NSC game, so it’s cool to meet these people and see just how they enjoy the game. It can be enjoyed in so many different ways.”
While many of the players chose to play with teams like Juventus, Manchester City, Chelsea and PSG, many were excited at the prospect of some new teams entering the game. With MLS on the horizon, it’s only a matter of time before Nashville has its own team to play as in FIFA.
“In the next couple of years or so, you’ll see in Nashville in FIFA,” Jones said. “It’s pretty crazy to think about how far it’s come from just an idea that a few folks had to being on a game that millions of people play and a lot of us here around town will be able to play.