Gary Smith, from the beginnings of Nashville SC to the search for a first title

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After an early retirement from professional soccer at the age of 24 due to a serious fracture, Gary Smith quickly knew that he would remain involved in the game one way or another.

He began his coaching career at the Wimbledon Academy and worked as a scout for different English clubs until in 2008. Then, at the age of 40, he got the opportunity to take over for Major League Soccer side Colorado Rapids.

In his three years with the club, he won the MLS Cup in 2010, the first and only MLS title the Rapids have in their history.

At his next stop, League One’s Stevenage in England, he arrived in January of 2012 and led the team to a promotion playoff by the end of the season. But following a poor start in his next season, he was let go by the team.

He returned to the United State and in late 2014 he took charge of the North American Soccer League side Atlanta Silverbacks. He performed well enough that he was hired to be the coach of the USL Championship side Nashville SC in 2017.

In his first season with the club, he reached the playoffs but lost to another USL Championship that would eventually make the jump to Major League Soccer: FC Cincinnati.

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The new era of Nashville SC

On March 6, 2019, the franchise board confirmed that Gary Smith would continue to lead the team as it transitioned from USL Championship to MLS. The club officially joined the top American league in 2020.

First season

Smith handled his first season with Nashville SC well. In a difficult MLS Eastern Conference, he led the team to a seventh place finish and a spot in the play-in game against Inter Miami. They won 3-0 and advanced to the first round of the MLS Playoffs.

They faced MLS powerhouse Toronto FC in the next round and upset the league giants 1-0 to reach the conference semifinals. But the dream run ended when the club was eliminated by the Columbus Crew, 2-0. Still, the team ended the club ended the year in high spirits.

Second season

Nashville's second season was evidence of the organization’s growth. The club finished in third place in the Eastern Conference, securing a spot in the playoffs without the need for a play-in match.

They eliminated Orlando City SC in a resounding 3-1 win, but fell in the Eastern Conference semifinals again, this time to the Philadelphia Union. Following a 1-1 draw, the club fell in penalties 2-0.

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Third season

For the third straight season, Nashville SC qualified for the playoffs, finishing fifth in the Western Conference.

But, in the first round, the club couldn’t get past the LA Galaxy, losing in a close 1-0 match.

Fourth season

In 2023,  Nashville returned to the Eastern Conference and showed good form on the pitch leading up to Leagues Cup 2023. The club is currently fourth place in the conference and Hany Makhtar is the leading scorer in MLS.

But the team’s best performances have come in Leagues Cup. During an unlikely run through the knockout stages, the team has eliminated tournament favorites FC Cincinnati, CLub América, and CF Monterrey on the way to the final against Inter Miami CF.