The Anthony Precourt-Columbus Crew SC saga continues with no real end in sight. For FC Cincinnati fans, that means it’s going to be a while before they know whether or not the budding “Hell is Real” rivalry will remain.
The FCC fanbase has been so focused on the club’s entrance into MLS that it’s unknown how many of them understand the situation up north. The truth is that FCC needs the Crew to stay in Columbus. It’s a natural rivalry that can only help both franchises long-term. PSV’s actions have made the situation dire for the Crew, and it risks leaving FCC without a true rival in a sport that thrives off rivalries.
MLS and International Rivalries
“Hell is Real” must be preserved. Most hardcore fans understand this. They have watched clubs like the Los Angeles Galaxy form successful, lucrative rivalries with the San Jose Earthquakes and Seattle Sounders FC. Speaking of the Sounders, they have the Cascadia Cup with the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps. New York City FC (NYCFC) and the New York Red Bulls have the Hudson River Derby. These rivalries have helped grow MLS to new heights in recent years. At one point, a poor product put the league near its depth. The development of its rivalries helped save MLS.
Internationally, great rivalries have fueled the most successful clubs. Legendary Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson once stated that his “greatest challenge was knocking Liverpool right off their f—–g perch. And you can print that.” Ferguson’s Manchester United went after their rival for more than 20 years and finally did knock it off its perch. Where would Manchester United be without Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal? What about FC Barcelona and Real Madrid? These clubs push each other while also engaging the fans.
FCC and Crew SC Need Each Other
Unfortunately, the lack of rivalries has hurt the Crew for years, and it also threatens FCC’s future. MLS attempted to manufacture rivalries for the Crew with the Frontier and Trillium Cups, but there was nothing deeper than the Hunt name to connect them. There is little to no geographical or cultural connection between these teams. However, the “Hell is Real” rivalry would solve that for the Crew. Cincinnati and Columbus are an easy drive from each other with similar sports cultures. “Hell is Real” would save both teams in travel and gives fans from both clubs something to grab onto that is natural and real.
Without the Crew, FCC would be in danger of starting its MLS journey without a rival. FCC would be isolated from the rest of the league. Cincinnati is an eight-hour drive away from Toronto, four and a half hours away from Chicago and nearly nine hours to Kansas City, Kan. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Union has three clubs within two and a half hours from their home stadium in Chester, Pa. The reality is that MLS does not have much of a presence in the Midwest, even with the recent additions of Minnesota United and Nashville to the fold. FCC and Crew SC are isolated without each other.
There are other factors that make clubs successful. Updated stadiums, strong attendance and excellent merchandise revenue all matter to the bottom line. However, that bottom line starts with the fans themselves. The more the fans have to grab onto, the more engaged they are. Don’t sell “Hell is Real” short. Saving the Crew means grabbing onto a homegrown rivalry and fostering it for years to come. Don’t let it end before it really ever begins.