FC Cincinnati has had a pretty good season so far. The Orange & Blue have a 4-2-2 record and sit tied for third place in the Eastern conference. That’s a solid start for a new team that is learning what their coach expects and what to anticipate from their teammates. Not to take anything away from this accomplishment, but the real news for FC Cincinnati has been coming from off the pitch…
It’s the fans.
Here in Cincinnati, we always knew this was a soccer town with a passion for the beautiful game, but apparently the rest of the country missed that memo. After our second home game when we set the record for the highest attended USL regular season game, it was like the “shot heard around the world.” Soccer celebrities took notice…..
And so did the media…… domestic sources, of course, but even all the way on the other side of the pond from The Telegraph in the UK….
The comparison of FC Cincinnati to Major League Soccer teams was obvious and expected. Twitter was tweeting loudly with comparisons to Columbus Crew SC and MLS in general. If you look at MLS attendance numbers for that weekend, only 5 stadiums had better attendance than Nippert. In fact, only 5 stadiums had the capacity to have beaten our record attendance!
The ownership and management of FC Cincinnati have made no secret of a long term interest in moving to MLS. And why wouldn’t they? MLS sits at 20 teams with planned expansions already in place for 24 teams, but has already stated that they plan to expand to 28 teams starting in 2020. The Cincinnati metropolitan area is the 28th largest market in the United States. This puts them above Columbus, Kansas City and San Jose who all have MLS teams already.
But, of course, population isn’t enough. It has to be a population of soccer fans, and more importantly, a population of soccer fans that buy tickets to games. And we are buying tickets…… mlssoccer.com referred to us as a “large, rabid fan base.” “A key expansion ingredient…” Yeah, I’ll take that.
MLS management has also noticed Cincinnati. Executive Vice President of Communications for MLS Dan Courtemanche went as far as to tell Patrick Brennan of the Enquirer, “We are all impressed.” We went from not on the radar, to the short list of expansion markets under consideration. ESPN FC, the Associate Press, Scratching the Pitch, and others all report that Cincinnati is in 7th position for the 4 expansion team spots.
But it isn’t so simple as setting record attendance. There are doubters.
Even Commissioner Garber who put Cincinnati on the list of possible expansion markets, cautions, “You’ve got to wait a while. We’ve been at this a few years. Just two good weekends doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to have a sustainable fan base.”
So here we sit……
We’ve proven we love soccer. We’ve proven we know how to support a team. But can we sustain this? Can we grow this? Can we move up from 7th position to the top 4 and secure an MLS placement? Of course we can. But how many times has a team walked onto the pitch assuming they will beat a “lessor” team? Maybe it was your son or daughter’s team. Maybe, the pro team you’ve been following. They’d worked hard and proven themselves and then they take their foot off the pedal and give up what should be easy points.
This battle for the attention of the USL, MLS, the media is no different. If we rest on our laurels and pat ourselves on the back for the great work so far, we risk losing the position that all of this work and effort has earned us. The environment at Nippert has been absolutely electric, so let’s keep that up. Make the effort to keep attending. Convert your tickets to pro-rated season tickets. How many of us know soccer fans that for whatever reason haven’t made it to the game yet? Tell them about your experience. Convince them to join us. We need to grow the FC Cincinnati army and become the city that other cites try to emulate.
We, the fans, will decide whether pro soccer succeeds and grows in Cincinnati. We, the fans, will decide whether investors and ownership continue to put out a quality professional product on the field and we, the fans, will decide whether quality players list Cincinnati as a place they are excited to come to and call home. And, yes, we, the fans, will decide whether one day Cincinnati joins MLS.
And now our principal owner and CEO, Carl Linder III, issues a challenge against Pittsburgh calling on Cincinnati to pack 25k people into Nippert and “Orange Out” Pittsburgh.
At the same time, Jeff Berding, President and General Manager, calls this game “strategic” and is asking for Cincinnati to “erase any doubt that Cincy is a top soccer market“.
Could there be a better opportunity to rise up and prove to the world that the attendance so far wasn’t a fluke? Can we show up in force and drown out the doubters with our collective voices? We want the rest of USL afraid to come to Nippert and our boys in Orange and Blue to feel invincible. We want the USL and MLS to see how Cincinnati supports their teams.
20,497 tickets was a record but it wasn’t even the potential of this great city. The reality is we’ve only had 3 games at home. We’ve only scratched the surface. We don’t know what our potential is yet, so let’s find out….
Wear orange, buy tickets, bring your friends and show the world that Cincinnati is THE soccer town in the United States, and when you hear the Bailey singing, join in!
“So score a goal or score a few,
Cincinnati we’re here for you”
This weekend, make it the “SHOUT heard around the world!”
READ MORE from Cincinnati Soccer Talk:
The Dreaded Tie – Episode 12 – Cincinnati Soccer Talk Podcast