Nashville MLS name Mike Jacobs general manager of soccer operations
Nashville MLS has named Mike Jacobs to be its first GM of soccer operations, the team announced on Tuesday.
For the past year, Jacobs had been serving as technical director and vice president of soccer operations for Nashville SC, the organization's USL team. He will continue in that position in the near term and then transition into his new role in 2019.
The expectation remains that Nashville will begin play in MLS in 2020.
Prior to taking the position with Nashville SC, Jacobs served as the assistant technical director at Sporting Kansas City -- which included overseeing the team's USL side, Swope Park Rangers -- and also coached at the collegiate level at the University of Evansville.
It was that breadth of experience that led Ian Ayre, the CEO of Nashville MLS, to name Jacobs to the position.
"For me, I'd like to think I know what 'good' looks like in terms of building a team that runs and operates a club, but it's also important to domesticate that in terms of the U.S. market," said Ayre, a former CEO of Premier League club Liverpool, in an exclusive interview with ESPN FC. "I really like the broad mix of experience that Mike has, being a coach at a certain level, being an assistant GM at another level, being the GM at a different level. That broad mix of skills is a great complement to my own experience and is really at the forefront of why I chose Mike."
Ayre added that bringing in a GM from Europe was "definitely a consideration" but that knowledge of the inner workings of MLS was something that increased in value as the search for a GM went on.
"I think coming into this fresh myself from the European market, I felt it was important to have that local knowledge within the mix," he said. "Who knows who else we'll add over time to the group, but certainly for this team I had, it became essential that [the GM] have local knowledge."
Jacobs, 47, said that he learned much from his time at SKC working under manager Peter Vermes, but that the last year at Nashville SC had been invaluable as well.
"You go from offering suggestions to making decisions. I would describe that period to be very similar to going from being an assistant coach to being a head coach," Jacobs told ESPN FC about his time in Kansas City. "When you're working at someone's side, you get a chance to get a great reference point to develop that, but as far as making decisions that's more limited. I think both of those experiences, being tasked with making decisions -- overarching, strategic decisions -- helped prepare me for this opportunity now with Nashville MLS."
Ayre said that searching for the team's first manager is now "very much on our radar" and that he expects the process to be completed "in the next few months." He added that is by no means the only area upon which he'll be focusing.
"It's pretty public that we're on our way with our stadium, but we're going to need a training ground and an academy," Ayre said. "So there's lots of dominoes to fall, and lots of work to do. Some have a longer lead time, but on the immediate horizon it's hiring people."
Ayre added that it's unlikely Nashville will sign a high-profile player in the near term, but Jacobs indicated that the players currently on the Nashville SC roster will get their chance to move up to the MLS team when the time comes.
"I would use the analogy that it's almost like a reality TV show," said Jacobs. "These guys who first come here have come here with aspirations and expectations of being tapped on the shoulder and being presented with an opportunity to play in MLS.
"There will be a nucleus of players with the potential to move up to MLS, and ascend with us, and the reality is there will be a large group of players that come in from the outside."
In the meantime, the organization will try to build momentum heading into the team's inaugural MLS season.
Jacobs said, "On-field success in 2019 helps us broaden our fan base, it helps us broaden our brand recognition in the marketplace, so I think 2019 is a very important year for this club and for our city."