Like many of the expansion teams that have exploded onto the USL map over the last few years, FC Cincinnati was constructed with Major league Soccer in mind. Jeff Berding, President and General Manager of FC Cincinnati, has been clear about ambitions for the soccer team from the first day the club was officially introduced to the public at a media event in August 2015. After two impressive showings at the gate, including a USL regular season record-breaking crowd of 20,497 last Saturday, it appears that MLS is seriously considering FC Cincinnati as a contender for future expansion.
The Associated Press has reported that MLS Commissioner Don Garber included Ohio’s Queen City in a list of those being considered for future expansion of America’s top-flight league. Garber went so far as to enumerate seven cities in order of priority:
1b) Saint Louis
4) San Diego
5) San Antonio
Garber has previously identified 28 teams as the goal for MLS. Twenty teams are currently competing in the league. Atlanta United FC and Los Angeles FC are set to join in the future, as are teams in Miami and Minnesota. That brings the total number of MLS franchises to 24. If the ceiling is firmly set at 28, then Cincinnati needs to find a way to move up in priority to make the final cut. Berding, though, believes MLS could reach 32 teams at some point, which puts Cincinnati on solid footing.
The legitimacy of a Cincinnati bid for MLS expansion derives from the financial backing provided by its ownership group, led by Carl Linder III, and is bolstered by the phenomenal attendances at the club’s first two home dates. As StP speculated on social media, though, those types of ticket sales will have to be replicated over time in order for FC Cincinnati’s long-term goals to be realized.
The importance of sustainability was emphasized by Garber according to the AP report. When Lindner called Garber to inquire about the timeframe for Cincinnati’s inclusion in MLS, Garber reminded the Cincinnati businessman that “Just two good weekends doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to have a sustainable fan base.”
So, it will take time for Cincinnati to prove itself as a viable market for professional soccer. Take heart. As Cincinnatus himself might remind you, Rome was not built in a day.
Whether or not the day ever comes that Cincinnati is announced as an MLS expansion site, get out there to support your team and your city. If FC Cincinnati continues along its current path, the club will have earned your support, regardless of the league in which it competes.