This week, Nashville SC will fight for its first trophy in its short four-season history. So, how did the Boys in Gold get here?
Nashville SC started Leagues Cup 2023 grouped with LIGA MX side Toluca FC and fellow Major League Soccer side Colorado Rapids. In its Leagues Cup 2023 debut, the Boys in Gold defeated the Rapids 2-1 in front of 16,087 fans at GEODIS Park. Defending MLS MVP Hany Mukhtar opened the match’s scoring in the 57th minute, and Jacob Shaffelburg notched the game-winner in the 65th minute.
In its second group match, Nashville lost 4-3 in an exciting back-and-forth match with Toluca. Walker Zimmerman put the club on the board first with a 3rd minute goal. Toluca equalized in the 27th minute and then Fifá Picault made it 2-1 Nashville in the 37th minute. Toluca score two more before the end of the half to take a 3-2 lead and but the match away in the 61st minute to make it 4-2. Despite a Luke Haakenson goal in the 70th minute it wasn’t enough to complete the comeback.
Despite the loss, Nashville still moved on from the group stage, finishing second in Group Central 4.
The Boys in Gold began the knockout rounds against the top club in MLS, FC Cincinnati. Aníbal Godoy scored a goal in the 61st minute, but a Cincy equalizer in the 85th minute forced the match into penalties. Nashville was perfect from the spot, winning 6-5 in penalties to advance to the round of 16.
In one of the most exciting matches of the tournament, Nashville went toe-to-toe with LIGA MX Giant Club América. Zimmerman opened the scoring an hour into the match but América responded with an equalizer and a late go-ahead goal four minutes into stoppage time. Sam Surridge saved Nashville’s tournament run with a last-shot-of-the-match header to equalize in the dying moments of regulation (nine minutes into extra time).
The match appeared to end when Jack Maher’s shot was saved in the sixth round of penalty shots. But after a video review showed that the América goalkeeper came off his line early, Maher was given another shot and he converted. In the next round, América failed to convert and Daniel Lovitz sent Nashville into the quarterfinals.
The next round was much easier for Nashville as the club throttled MLS side Minnesota United FC 5-0 with goals from Shaq Moore, Teal Bunbury, Alex Muyl, Surridge, and Mukhtar.
In the semifinals, the Boys in Gold squared off with another LIGA MX giant, CF Monterrey. After a scoreless first half, Surridge notched his third goal of the tournament in the 67th minute to make it 1-0. Following a tight back-and-forth for the final 20 minutes of the match, with great chances for both sides, Picault finally put the match away with a goal six minutes into stoppage time to make it 2-0.
The road to the finals have been long and winding for Nashville SC but no other club may be better prepared for Inter Miami CF than the one that took down MLS’ top team and two LIGA MX powerhouses.