Stateside of Soccer made note not long ago that the final places of Don Garber’s 28-team MLS seemed to be all filled up. At 20 teams as is, Atlanta and Minnesota make it 22 with Miami and LAFC set to make it 24. That leaves just four remaining slots that, with Sacramento and St. Louis at the top of Garber’s list. Subtract those two spots and we are left with just two places that had been pegged for either Oklahoma City, Austin, San Antonio or Detroit.
All had a strong claim and all were taking the necessary steps to move forward with the process.
However, one of those spots has been shaken considerably as FC Cincinnati is proving to be an absolute hotbed of soccer fanaticism. And they are doing it without much external help.
Cincinnati had nothing but ‘introductory meetings’ with MLS Commissioner Garber last month. It looked to be nothing more than a pleasantry. But since that time, Cincy has shown up in force and taken it upon themselves to prove that they deserve one of those 28 slots.
Cincy recently broke the USL attendance record against Louisville, drawing 20,497 fans to University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium. Five days later, Garber noted Cincy as a potential expansion prospect for the first time.
It’s been nothing but improvements since then. Not wanting to let a good thing be, FC Cincy broke their own attendance record as 23,375 fans showed up to see the team face close-rival Pittsburgh. In that week, only Toronto pulled in a bigger crowd. That’s money in MLS’s pocket if they can get the other pieces in play for an expansion.
As it is with any other effort, the first two things that are needed are an ownership group and a stadium. Dan Courtemanche, MLS’s Executive Vice President of communications, reinforced these aspects of an expansion effort in an email to the Enquirer. Here is what is needed:
- A committed local ownership group with the appropriate financial resources.
- A comprehensive stadium plan where the ownership controls the venue.
- An appropriate market that is:
- Attractive to sponsors and television partners.
- Located in an appropriate geographic location.
- Has a history of strong fan support for soccer matches and other sporting events.
Again, in the natural order, that last aspect is usually the final piece of the puzzle, but Cincinnati is taking the ‘stuffed crust’ approach and eating the pizza slice backwards. They have a fan base and a damn good one. MLS boasts some impressive attendance numbers but Cincy is topping them and they do it pretty frequently.
No expansion slot is safe and Cincinnati is reminding us of that.