I wanted to touch on some recent comments made by FC Cincinnati President & General Manager Jeff Berding. Local radio host Lance McAlister (1530AM/700WLW) invited Berding on his show Thursday afternoon. After discussing the upcoming weekend vs. Louisville City, McAlister and Berding discussed the potential for US Soccer to play at Nippert Stadium. That’s right, a US Soccer match in Cincinnati.
On the show, Berding said he had attended the Copa America match between Panama and Argentina on Friday June 10th in Chicago. Berding highlighted his interaction with members of the US Soccer community and how FC Cincinnati could host US Soccer matches in Nippert Stadium.
“I was in the area ahead of time with some of the top people from the US Soccer community and we were talking about that, having the US men play at Nippert. We are going to do some continued enhancements to provide greater width after this upcoming college football season and our partnership with UC. We would have the ability to rent a temporary grass field on top of the turf. So I would tell you I think the likelihood of that happening down the road is pretty strong and if you include the women’s side I think you will see it happen sooner than people think.”
— Lance McAlister (@LanceMcAlister) June 23, 2016
After McAlister expressed his shock and excitement, Berding continued.
“It’s hard for people in the US Soccer community to not pay attention to Cincinnati when we are drawing 19,000 fans and outdrawing 6 or 7 MLS teams. They want to be successful, they want new venues, they want markets that are excited for soccer and will come out and attend these matches. One of our games a couple weeks ago, we had 14,000 and the US men were playing somewhere (Kansas City) and they had 10,000 (8,894). We’ve put Cincinnati on the soccer map because the city tremendously responded and embraced FC Cincinnati and we are going to keep building together.”
Berding also commented on the importance of the Crystal Palace friendly in getting the chance to host bigger matches.
“If we can sellout Nippert for Crystal Palace the ability to get an Argentina or one of the bigger squads, FC Barcelona. We had some people here this morning from FC Barcelona who was interested in doing some stuff with us. We are capturing people’s attention.”
This is truly big news even if there are no confirmed dates in place. Berding’s interview did get me to think about the differences the fans may encounter especially on the ticketing side. For US Soccer matches, ticket prices are significantly greater than a traditional FC Cincinnati game. Prices are set by US Soccer based on certain rental criteria and relationship with any promoting agents (like Soccer United Marketing).
As you can see in the image below, a Zone 1 or “midline” ticket is $25 for a normal USL game while the cost of that ticket to the Crystal Palace friendly is $30. These same seats are going for between $75-100 for the two upcoming USWNT friendlies, while the skyrocket up to $250 for the USMNT FIFA World Cup Qualifier in Jacksonville. The cheapest ticket for the USMNT qualifier are $32, which does get you a higher seat in the endzone.
Supporters seats also change. Tickets in the American Outlaws section in Columbus were $60, whereas the upcoming USWNT & USMNT games are charging between $35 to $45. This is a decent jump from the reasonable tickets that members of the Bailey pay.
You can argue that the exclusivity of the product does drive the price up, but does the Cincinnati soccer community understand that? Overall, I think that just to be in the conversation so close to the start of the organization is a great achievement. Cities like Dallas, Kansas City, Washington DC, Sandy UT, traditionally host World Cup qualifiers, so I understand if some of these fanbases do not turnout for “meaningless” friendlies. I believe that Cincinnati could excel in this situation.
The relationships that coach John Harkes may have with US Soccer could also help in this opportunity. The former captain could potentially work with several former players in the US Soccer management structure to get a game in Cincinnati.
In terms of playing a Champions League club like an FC Barcelona or Bayern Munich, this could be more difficult. With the amount of money these teams could make in large Asian or Middle-Eastern cities, a 40,000 seat stadium is small. Couple that with the premier ICC tournament happening in 90-100k seat venues, FC Cincinnati seems to be a long shot. Crystal Palace is a phenomenal opponent for our first friendly in Cincinnati. We would be extremely lucky if we could face that level of opponent every year.
All this news is a direct product of the support that has been shown by us the fans. Whether we get an opportunity to host a US Soccer men’s or women’s match, there is no doubt that we would but on a great show for all US fans to see.