FC Cincinnati under the leadership of Owner Carl Lindner III and GM/President Jeff Berding checked all the necessary boxes for admission into Major League Soccer (MLS) on Monday.
Beginning with last week’s land swap approval with Cincinnati Public Schools, Lindner and Berding completed the necessary public-private partnerships to build the club’s stadium in Ohio. Hamilton County (parking and infrastructure), the Cincinnati Port Authority (stadium ownership), the West End Community Council (community benefits agreement) and the City of Cincinnati (infrastructure) have all committed to the plan and have helped complete the most difficult piece of the MLS puzzle.
While the official deals are pending an invitation to the nation’s top soccer league, the coalition supporting the deal is impressive and should stand out to the league. Many major civic groups are backing the deal. Local labor unions, West End Community leaders, and even members of both sides of the political aisle have come together to continue the city’s renaissance.
Include the political partnership with the amazing support shown by the Orange and Blue faithful, and FC Cincinnati should be a banner candidate for MLS. The league issued “guidelines” over a year ago for prospective markets that included quality ownership, dedicated fan base, commercial opportunities, and a soccer-specific stadium plan. The FCC bid by many accounts has fulfilled these requirements and in my opinion should merit entry into the league.
The one dark cloud still hanging over the bid is the #SaveTheCrew situation. Columbus is in the midst of a messy battle with their owner (He Who Must Not Be Named) looking to shift an MLS original club to Austin, Texas, for the 2019 season. Berding on several occasions has stated that the Crew ordeal is independent of FCC’s bid. We will now learn if this is actually the case as MLS will have little grounds to not invite FCC in favor of allowing the Columbus process to play out.
If the rumored 2019 start date for MLS play is indeed true, FC Cincinnati must get those wheels in motion now. It would have been better to have that started months ago, but with the stadium situation up in the air, I can see why comissioner Don Garber and MLS have refused to offer any public or formal invite. Technical Director Luke Sassano was brought in to manage player acquisitions. He will need the summer window to evaluate and sign potential MLS players for Cincinnati. The club will also need to execute their hiring plans to ramp up support staff in ticketing, sponsorships, media relations and in technical areas to bring the organization fully up to MLS levels. This should all be able to be completed in the short term and is most likely not as critical for FCC as their current staff has impressed at almost every turn.
My question now to Major League Soccer is, what do we need to do to be worthy of a bid? I don’t ask this as a snooty fan, I ask this as a fan of a perceived small market team that has surpassed every benchmark set by pundits of the league. What more can we do to show you we want to be your next expansion team?
If we don’t hear from Major League Soccer soon, I am worried that our fan base will become more disagreeable with the prospect of exerting energy to keep up the MLS fight. We have done everything in our power to show MLS that we are ready. There is only so much we as supporters can do.
So MLS, are we ready to do this? We are ready to throw you a big party. Just say yes and I promise you won’t regret it.