Industry News

Stadium plans propel FC Cincinnati to MLS status

Major League Soccer (MLS) has announced that Cincinnati will be home to its 26th franchise, with the US city’s commitment to develop a new 21,000-seat stadium key to its winning proposal.

MLS yesterday (Tuesday) announced that the US city, which hosts a United Soccer League (USL) team in the form of FC Cincinnati, had secured its latest expansion franchise, taking the league to 24 clubs for the 2019 season. Teams in Miami and Nashville are set to join MLS in 2020.

The club, which will continue as FC Cincinnati when it joins MLS, will play at its current Nippert Stadium home until its new stadium in Cincinnati’s West End neighbourhood is completed in 2021. Cincinnati is said to have moved ahead of its rivals in the expansion race when its city council last month approved $34.8m (£26.2m/€29m) for infrastructure as part of a stadium deal, news that completed Cincinnati’s proposal.

The new stadium will be located in a rapidly developing part of the Ohio city, with MLS commissioner Don Garber referencing a couple of legendary European stadia when asked about the potential of the site.

“We fought hard over the last six months… to get a stadium site that is unprecedented,” he said, according to the Sports Illustrated website. “This could be Bernabéu. This could be Anfield. You have a stadium that’s going to be built in a great, great part of the community.”

FC Cincinnati’s managing owner is Carl H. Lindner III, the co-chief executive of Cincinnati-based American Financial Group, which owns Great American Insurance. Among Lindner’s partners are Scott Farmer, chairman and chief executive of Cintas Corp., and George Joseph, president of Joseph Toyota and principal of other automobile dealerships in Greater Cincinnati.

Since debuting in the USL in 2016, FC Cincinnati has registered attendance records including three crowds of more than 30,000 fans during the club’s run to the semi-finals of the 2017 U.S. Open Cup. In 2018, the club has surpassed 17,000 season tickets and has so far averaged almost 24,500 fans per game.

“Cincinnati’s selection by Major League Soccer for an expansion team is a triumph for the continued renaissance of this incredible city,” Lindner said. “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.”