Report: MLS to finally grant FC Cincinnati an expansion place

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Major League Soccer is set to be special guests in Cincinnati next week, and it’s likely the league’s executives will be coming with a big offer.

According to a report from the Cincinnati Enquirer, MLS commissioner Don Garber, along with Cincinnati mayor John Cranley and FC Cincinnati officials will hold an announcement at local craft brewery Rheingeist, likely bestowing an MLS expansion place to the USL club. The report states that FC Cincinnati would join MLS in 2019, which would likely mean FC Cincinnati would remain at the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium for the short-term until their soccer-specific stadium is built.

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If true, it’s the end of a long and labored process that has been stuck in the mud the past few months since MLS announced Nashville was getting an MLS expansion franchise. At the time, FC Cincinnati was also expected to get one of the two available expansion slots, but the club didn’t have a concrete stadium plan at the time.

Back in December, when Nashville was awarded its franchise, FC Cincinnati was looking at three stadium sites, including one across the river in Northern Kentucky. FC Cincinnati eventually settled on a site on the west end of the city, with the club paying a big cost to fund community initiatives to win over Cincinnati city council.

Ultimately, the stadium deal was contingent on earning an MLS expansion slot, one that looks like it is coming to fruition.

It’s been an incredible four years in Cincinnati, from when the club was announced in August 2015. Although soccer at a lower level hadn’t found success in the city, FC Cincinnati took the city and USL by storm, regularly averaging more than 15,000 fans at Nippert Stadium (while the league attendance average was around half of that). The rise of FC Cincinnati coincided with the decline on the field of both the Cincinnati Reds and Cincinnati Bengals, leading FC Cincinnati to become a household team in the city.

The run to the U.S. Open Cup semifinals in 2017 was another notch as the team looked to see whether it could earn an MLS expansion bid, knocking off both the Columbus Crew and Chicago Fire along the way. While FC Cincinnati hasn’t come close to winning a league title, just the fact that the club’s been able to get so many people into the stadium is a win in it of itself.

Now, FC Cincinnati is entrenched in the city and with the billionaire backing of the Lindner family, they could be the next MLS expansion success story.