As the inaugural season for FC Cincinnati draws toward the home stretch, the USL expansion side has a reasonable chance to host a playoff game at Nippert Stadium. The Orange & Blue sit in third place in the USL Eastern Conference, three points clear of both fourth and fifth place with eight games remaining. The top four seeds are slotted to host a first-round playoff game. Home games in subsequent rounds of the postseason are awarded to the best of the remaining seeds.
Nippert Stadium has been an amazing venue for FC Cincinnati, and the atmosphere would be otherworldly for a playoff game. Nippert’s primary tenant, though, plays football of a different sort. The University of Cincinnati Bearcats will soon begin their 2016 campaign, raising questions about potential conflicts between USL playoffs and NCAA football at Nippert.
Two rounds of the USL playoffs represent scheduling concerns. The USL Conference Quarterfinals, the first round of the playoffs, are slated to take place between September 30 and October 2. The USL Championship Game is scheduled for sometime between October 21 and 23. The Bearcats have home games on October 1 and 22.
Concerns over potential scheduling conflicts are justified. It was just last season that Orange County Blues FC earned a home playoff match, but were forced to play at LA Galaxy II due to conflicts at the Blues’ home venue on the campus of UC Irvine. Orange County lost that match by a score of 2-0.
FC Cincinnati President and General Manager Jeff Berding indicated the club will submit a planned playoff schedule that will fit with UC Bearcat football. The USL has final approval of the planned schedule.
“There are no conflicts and, therefore, no contingency plans,” said Berding.
Given the aforementioned time frames, Nippert would have to be transformed from a soccer pitch on Friday to a gridiron on Saturday, or a football field on Saturday to a soccer field on Sunday. Berding said that the transformation, which involves removing the football end zones and midfield logo in addition to installing soccer turf, can take up to a day under optimal conditions.
“It is a seamless process, consistent with MetLife Stadium, which is home to NY Jets and Giants,” said Berding. “The transition process has already been tested at Nippert and works well. All parties are ready to go.”
If FC Cincinnati does hold on to earn a home playoff date, fans will be hoping the atmosphere for more than one reason.