FC Cincinnati Officially Running For MLS Expansion
FC Cincinnati owner and CEO, Carl Linder III, delivered Cincinnati’s proposal to MLS headquarters Tuesday. Joining 11 other cities in announcing their intention for one of the four expansion slots. This was a widely expected move for FC Cincinnati and many of the other cities.
One of the two big surprises were Phoenix, who currently have the newly re-branded Phoenix Rising FC in the USL. The other was Indianapolis, Indiana who is currently the home of the Indy Eleven in the NASL and also the Indy Eleven II in the NPSL. Phoenix was added to the running last week and Indianapolis was a shock addition on Monday night Jan. 30 (one day before the deadline).
— FC Cincinnati (@fccincinnati) January 31, 2017
A new soccer-specific stadium is most likely what will hinge on Cincinnati being awarded a MLS team. The biggest way to get a stadium passed would be to have it all privately funded due to the taxpayers already paying off stadiums for the Bengals and Reds. Also a list of potential sites was supposed to be provided to the Cincinnati City Council before the end of January, but most likely won’t be released to the public.
Even though Nippert Stadium has a large capacity and FC Cincinnati has spent $2 million to widen the playing surface to the FIFA regulations, it is still controlled by its main tenants the University of Cincinnati Football team.
Coming off a fantastic season on and off the field FC Cincinnati is considered to be a front-runner for a call up to the MLS. On the field, it ended prematurely in the first round of the playoffs, after a third place finish in the Eastern Conference, in front of USL playoff record 30,187.
In the stands it was an incredible season with a total attendance of 259,457, 17.3% of the league total. They averaged 17,296 in league games and setting a league attendance record in their second home game with 20,497 and breaking that mark two more times later in the year, capping the record at 24,376.
The crown jewel of the season was the friendly match against English Premier League club Crystal Palace where a sold out 35,061 crowd witnessed a Palace 2-0 win.
The blueprint that FC Cincinnati seems to be following is that of Orlando City SC who played in the USL from 2010-2014 and set attendance records along with solid average attendances over their four years in the league before moving to MLS in 2015. Solid ownership and a plan for a stadium in a soccer crazy environment was able to get a team to the MLS, Cincinnati can repeat this process.
Assuming FC Cincinnati gets a stadium, there is a decent shot that the MLS could come to Cincinnati but it will be very tough. St. Louis and San Diego both had their NFL franchises leave and have a large hole in their market of the professional sports world.
Also, the close proximity to the Columbus Crew won’t help.
Due to the outstanding ownership group and rabid fan support last year, with having already sold 9,000 season tickets for the season, it doesn’t look like FC Cincinnati going anywhere soon. But like most things in US professional sports, things will be decided behind the scenes instead of on the field.