The National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), the only league designated by USASA as a Tier 1 national league, is proud to announce that Bristol Rhythm AFC (Bristol, Tennessee and Virginia) has joined the league as an expansion team. The club will begin play in 2024.
“We are pleased and excited that Bristol Rhythm AFC has joined the NPSL,” NPSL Director of Membership Development Dina Case said. “The Rhythm’s ownership group are seasoned business people with a passion for sport. The city of Bristol is unique in that it spans two states, and the Rhythm have done a great job in establishing strong support from the surrounding communities. We are confident they will be a successful addition to the league.”
The organization will be led by Diane Smith, Matt Smith, and Andrew Rhoda.
Owner Diane Smith is serving as the General Manager. She has been a resident of the Tri-Cities for over 20 years and currently calls Bristol, Tennessee her home. She received her MBA from King College in 2011. Diane has worked at Bristol Tennessee Essential Services as the Supervisor of Customer Experience since 2009.
Matt Smith is serving as President. He is one of the owners of Mountain Empire Sports. Mountain Empire Sports is the sister company to Mountain Empire Capital of which Matt is also an owner. He graduated with his MBA from King College in 2011. Matt currently works in Human Resources.
“We are committed to creating an engaging and lively atmosphere, providing our fans with an unforgettable gameday experience,” Matt Smith said. “We want to establish Bristol Rhythm AFC as the resource in our region for soccer entertainment and player development, uniting our region through soccer. We are One City, Two States, One Team.”
Andrew Rhoda is serving as Sporting Director. A South Africa native, Rhoda moved to Bristol in 2017 to further his education and play soccer at King University. He graduated in 2021 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Sports Management and graduated with his MBA in 2022.
Home matches will be played at Gene Malcolm Stadium in Bristol, Virginia. It is a city-owned athletic facility that contains Gene Malcolm Stadium, DeVault Baseball Stadium/Boyce Cox Field, and Central Softball Field. The football stadium and softball field are home to the Virginia High Bearcats, while the baseball stadium is home to Virginia High and the Appalachian League’s Bristol State Liners. The stadium was built in 1979 and can seat 5,400 fans.
“Many members of our leadership team had the privilege of playing in the prestigious NPSL during their college years,” Matt Smith added. “Their firsthand experiences, including the intense competition and additional benefits, left no doubt in our minds. Considering the rapid growth of soccer in the United States and our advantageous geographical location, joining the NPSL is a perfect fit. With a dedication to excellence on and off the field, we are poised to make a lasting impact within the league and for our region. We look forward to delivering thrilling matches, fostering a vibrant fan base, and contributing to the ongoing growth of soccer in our region and beyond.”
More information about expansion opportunities in the NPSL can be found at npsl.com/expansion.