Formerly Downtown Huntsville, Inc. CEO Chad Emerson has taken a position with the city’s Major League Soccer NEXT Pro team, the Nashville Soccer Club announced Thursday.
Emerson will serve as the managing director for business operations for the new franchise, which starts play next spring at the newly renovated Joe Davis Stadium. Nashville SC owns the team, and said its CEO, Ian Ayre, will also serve as president of the club’s team in Huntsville.
“Hiring Ian to be the CEO of Nashville SC was the best decision I have made as owner of the organization,” said owner John Ingram in a news release. “Naming Ian president of the Huntsville MLS NEXT Pro team signals our commitment to making this project a tremendous success. Ian’s experience and understanding of what it takes to get a club up and running put us in an excellent position in Huntsville.”
“I am pleased to have found somebody with Chad’s local experience to lead our business efforts for our NEXT Pro team,” Ayre added. “As we saw during the building of Nashville Soccer Club, having key people who know and understand the local market are crucial in shaping the club and the business to fit with the city. I feel confident that Chad and the team we assemble can build something unique and fitting for the vity of Huntsville.”
Emerson has played a major role transforming Huntsville’s downtown into the thriving cultural and commercial center it is today. Under his leadership, DHI won several awards including multiple International Downtown Association awards for placemaking and unique downtown projects and the city’s recent ranking as the #1 city in America to live by US News & World Report.
Prior to his role at DHI, he served as the director of city development for Montgomery, as well as a consultant to more than 30 different cities on downtown and urban redevelopment strategies, and he was a professor of law in the Thomas Goode Jones School of Law at Faulkner University.
“The Huntsville success story is built on a great quality of life and incredible collaboration,” said Emerson. “Thanks to the vision and leadership of the City of Huntsville and Nashville SC, we’re excited to bring MLS NEXT Pro to Huntsville as a new quality of life amenity and a fantastic opportunity to collaborate with our north Alabama communities.”
Ayre, who has held the role since 2018, has been an integral piece to the club’s success in its first three seasons as an expansion side and will continue to help grow the organization as President of Huntsville NEXT Pro. The former CEO of Liverpool Football Club and English Premier League CEO of the Year has helped Nashville SC reach the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs in every season and achieve a top-five average attendance among all MLS teams in its first year at GEODIS Park, the largest soccer-specific stadium in the US and Canada.
MLS NEXT Pro completes the integrated player pathway from MLS NEXT through to MLS first teams and allows young players and experienced professionals the opportunity to develop and showcase their talents while competing for an MLS NEXT Pro championship.