Reports have begun to surface that FC Cincinnati is not completely closed off to the idea of affiliating with an MLS franchise for the club’s germinal campaign in USL. A segment of FCC’s unseasoned fan base has taken to the internet to express its anxiety about forming a such a partnership. The commonly stated reasons against affiliation include fears that FCC would be perceived as a reserve team and that it would somehow derail FCC’s hopes of being granted its own MLS franchise in the future.
That is a lot of poppycock! A handful of loaned players will only garner reserve team status in the eyes of those who religiously sling terms like “single entity” and “closed market” as if they were blasphemies against the soccer deities. If MLS is the league to which a soccer club and its supporters truly aspire, dealing with vociferous faction of American soccer purists comes part and parcel.
Additionally, Orlando City serves as a prime example that affiliated USL teams are not hampered when it comes to consideration for MLS expansion. StP would venture to guess that MLS does not even consider affiliation status when a USL franchise is considered for promotion.
When executed properly, an affiliation between USL and MLS teams can be quite beneficial to both sides. FC Cincinnati, though, should be cautioned (read “strongly urged”) against seeking an affiliation with Crew SC. The proximity between Cincinnati and Columbus is a logical reason that FCC and Crew SC might make good bedfellows, but there is a better reason for FCC to eschew such a relationship. Simply put, Crew SC is a death knell for USL franchises.
Consider the fates of the only two USL clubs with whom Columbus has had an affiliation, Dayton Dutch Lions FC and the Austin Aztex. Crew SC and the Dutch Lions partnered for the 2014 season, and Dayton dropped to USL PDL in 2015. Columbus turned to Austin for affiliation in 2015, only to see Austin suspend operations for the 2016 season. When it comes to killing USL franchises through affiliation, Columbus has 100% rate of success.
It may seem preposterous to directly associate Crew SC with its affiliates’ inabilities to return to the USL table the season after the partnership. Perhaps it is. Both Dayton and Austin had problems that Columbus could neither influence, nor resolve. The correlation, nonetheless, cannot be denied, and it is no more silly to claim causation here than it is to blame the Dutch Lions for killing Eddie Gaven’s career.