May 30, 2018 / 12:27 AM / 6 months ago

Cincinnati lands MLS expansion franchise

Major League Soccer is coming to Cincinnati.

The league announced Tuesday that FC Cincinnati will open play as an expansion team in 2019.

“Major League Soccer is proud to introduce Cincinnati as our 26th team,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said. “The rise of Cincinnati as a passionate soccer market in recent years, coinciding with the city’s growing economy and reputation as a top destination for young professionals, makes it an ideal city for our growing league.

“We congratulate (managing owner and CEO of FC Cincinnati) Carl Lindner and his partners and also the soccer fans of Cincinnati, who have passionately supported FC Cincinnati in the (United Soccer League).”

Cincinnati beat out Detroit and Sacramento for the expansion slot to become MLS’ 26th team. The league has 23 teams playing this season. Nashville and Miami were previously awarded expansion teams, and both are likely to start playing in 2020. Cincinnati saw its timetable for kickoff moved ahead of Nashville’s and Miami’s because its temporary home venue, the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium, is already in place.

FC Cincinnati plans to build a 21,000-seat stadium in the city’s West End. The venture will be largely privately funded, though the City Council has already agreed to cover $34.8 million in infrastructure expenses.

FC Cincinnati is currently a member of the USL, where it has experienced huge popularity since joining the league in 2016. The team set the USL attendance record for a home opener at 25,667 on April 7. Cincinnati also drew 32,250 for a U.S. Open Cup semifinal match against the New York Red Bulls last year.

“The news of Cincinnati joining Major League Soccer makes this a landmark day for our city,” Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley said. “In MLS, FC Cincinnati and its new world-class soccer stadium in the West End will spur additional economic and cultural growth for our city. ...

“There was a time when people didn’t think we were hip or cool enough ... or big enough to support three major league teams in one city. I’m still a Reds and Bengals fan, aren’t you?”

Lindner said, “Cincinnati’s selection by Major League Soccer for an expansion team is a triumph for the continued renaissance of this incredible city. I have to start by thanking the supporters of FC Cincinnati, because from the beginning they were the foundation of the efforts of our bid to join MLS. We could not have done this without them. This has been a true team effort among the soccer fans, our partners and our civic and corporate leaders.

“This is a city with a historically deep relationship between the people and its teams, and we are going to take that to even greater heights in MLS.”

The city’s other pro sports teams congratulated the soccer franchise Tuesday.

The Reds tweeted, “Congratulations, @fccincinnati! #MLS2Cincy #TeamCincinnati”

The Bengals posted, “Welcome to the Queen City, @MLS! Congratulations @fccincinnati #TeamCincinnati”

The football team also issued a statement that read, “The Bengals congratulate the Lindner and Farmer families on their efforts to bring the MLS to Cincinnati. Procuring a new franchise presents real challenges, and FC Cincinnati has handled those challenges with the energy and perseverance needed for success. We applaud them on their accomplishments and look forward to the excitement they will bring Cincinnati.”

—Field Level Media

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