Whether it was inexperience or perhaps a wide array of logistical reasons, CONCACAF and their partner Soccer United Marketing seem to have passed on the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium as a host site for the federation’s biennial championship.
— Cincy Soccer Talk (@cincysoccertalk) February 27, 2018
First reported by Cincinnati Soccer Talk in late February, the city had hoped to host an opening round 2019 Gold Cup match featuring the U.S. in Nippert that could coincide with FC Cincinnati’s first season in Major League Soccer. FCC president and general manager Jeff Berding has been working with CONCACAF and the United States Soccer Federation over the past several months to lure a game to the Queen City, but Los Angeles, Minnesota, Charlotte, N.C., Cleveland and Nashville, Tenn., among others, were chosen for next summer’s games.
The inclusion of Cleveland seems to rule out Cincinnati’s chance to host a cup match. Overall 15 stadiums in 13 cities will host the event that will help decide who represents CONCACAF in the 2021 Confederations Cup. Cities like Baltimore, New York, Chicago, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles and San Francisco have hosted matches in the past and would be favorites to round out CONCACAF’s list.
— Nashville SC (@NashvilleSC) May 16, 2018
While this may be seen as a disappointment for many supporters of the Red, White, and Blue in Cincinnati, U.S. Soccer may want to test a larger event before bringing CONCACAF’s premier event to our community. Cincinnati has only hosted one national team event over the past decade when the US Women’s National Team defeated New Zealand last September. In that match, 30,596 fans saw the USWNT defeat the Football Ferns 5-0 on a Tuesday night, which was a fantastic number, but one could wonder if selling out Nippert could have perhaps helped a bit more?
Cincinnati is still a newcomer to the footballing community and there are several markets that offer a more complete package at this time. A couple glaring issues that FC Cincinnati faced in the short term were a lack of a grass pitch at Nippert Stadium, dedicated world-class practice facilities in the immediate vicinity of the hosting venue and the lack of a track record of drawing for international soccer events. While Cincinnati has drawn for FCC, the USWNT, and the 2016 friendly vs. Crystal Palace, CONCACAF has to weigh how many fans would attend for smaller countries like Haiti, Trinidad & Tobago or Honduras. In all likelihood, Nippert could have been too big a venue for a neutral site match.
Should FC Cincinnati begin construction on their West End community stadium site in the next several months, the Queen City should have a realistic chance of hosting a match for the 2021 version of the tournament. A world-class soccer-specific venue and the rumored training site in Milford would be an attractive option for U.S. Soccer and SUM to show off a new “crown jewel” to the federation in the first year of its existence.
A couple questions that may come out of this decision are if it impacts the region’s bid to host a match in the 2026 FIFA World Cup, should the United Bid of Mexico, Canada, and the U.S. be awarded the contest. Many hoped that the 2019 tournament would be the city’s audition to potentially hosting a match in the world’s premier footballing event. Also, why are organizing committees choosing markets without high-level pro teams vs. markets with dedicated followings?
At the end of the day, Cincinnati still needs to work on all of the infrastructure that comes with world-class football. While Nippert is a fantastic stadium, it still lacks enough premier seating, grass and the required permanent facilities required such as enough ticket booths, locker rooms, or restroom facilities. We love FC Cincinnati’s first home but cannot wait to see what the future in the West End could entail on the world stage.
Stay tuned to Cincinnati Soccer Talk for more updates to this story.