FC Cincinnati continues Major League Soccer expansion push

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
FC Cincinnati are backed by a loyal set of supporters .

The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is a kind of an afterthought in the soccer calendar here. MLS teams send out second strings. The nation’s fans aren’t sprinting to a TV to watch the draw for the next round. Yet, for those teams who aren’t able to get a seat at the top table, it’s a brilliant chance to stake a claim.

And even if FC Cincinnati’s brave journey to the semi-finals ended on Tuesday with defeat to the New York Red Bulls, try telling any of the 30,000-plus jam-packed into Nippert Stadium that a cup competition is a waste of time.

I don’t want to bore everyone by droning on about the whole ‘soccer has become more popular in the US’ thing, but what’s transpiring in Ohio really is something else.

This is a place with no real pro soccer history, even if the sport has been popular at the high school level for years. It’s a city which hasn’t been too successful in recent sporting times. The Bengals don’t look like winning the Super Bowl anytime soon. The Reds probably won’t lift the World Series either.

Cincy FC play at a stadium which is owned by the local university. They’ve only been going for two years and currently reside in the USL – effectively the second tier which has no direct route into the big time.

The crowds and the interest generated, however, are off the scale. “There’s a real family feel to the whole experience,” said fan Steve Hall.

“It’s a good all-round experience which feels different to other sports.”

Six fan groups meet regularly to discuss chants and ‘tifo’ style flags to wave. Their first season saw attendance records smashed consistently. What’s followed has just reinforced and strengthened interest to quite incredible levels.

Billionaire local businessman and owner Carl Lindner III, who used to be in the Bengals front office, is leading from the front and loving every minute.

Beating Chicago on penalties to reach the quarter-finals – they dispatched Columbus Crew in the previous round – sparked the kind of wild celebratory scenes most top-flight clubs can only dream of.

In the next round against FC Miami, fans travelled in great numbers for a match that was called off thanks to the unpredictable South Florida weather. That, however, is quite something and when it comes to piquing the interest of MLS commissioner Don Garber, is absolutely crucial.

“Incredible scenes” tweeted wide-eyed Garber as he surveyed the crowd of 33,250. Interest in the game isn’t the issue. It’s seeing stands packed and TV figures impressing the money men.

There are two big ticks for FC Cincy on that score – the club’s website crashed in the build-up to the Red Bulls match because of the demand for tickets, while that extra-time defeat was the most watched show in the area.

Of course, the New York sporting market is a different beast. There’s far more for fans to sink their teeth into. Yet FC Cincy are the new kids on the block and have already exceeded the wildest of expectations.

“What an incredible environment,” added Red Bulls boss Jesse Marsch after the end of 120 emotionally draining minutes.

“I think Cincinnati would be a feather in the cap of MLS.”

So what now? Well, that’s not so straightforward. With expansion costs now beginning at $150 million, there are a host of new cities wanting a piece of the action. Sacramento and Nashville are strongly in the mix.

There are, however, problems to overcome. MLS require any new owners to have a soccer specific stadium with real turf, not the plastic surface currently in use.

But Garber, speaking ahead of the MLS All-Star game in Chicago earlier this month, sounded confident of making dreams a reality.

“Two games in the U.S. Open Cup and more than 30,000 (fans) is just something they should be very proud of,” he said. “The owners are doing an amazing job.” Indeed they are. But there’s plenty more work to do.

Most popular

Related Sections

Neymar leapfrogs Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo in top 10 list of best paid footballers

Brendon Netto 4/08/2017

In what has been described as the ‘transfer of the century’, Neymar has signed a five-year deal with Paris Saint-Germain after his €222 million release clause at Barcelona was triggered.

The Brazilian won the Champions League and two La Liga titles with the Camp Nou outfit and will reportedly earn €30m net per year at PSG, or close to €600,000 each week after tax.

However, that still doesn’t make him the best paid footballer in the world.

Despite having Carlos Tevez hold that title as a Shanghai Shenua player, raking in €38 million a year, Neymar can revel in the fact that he now earns more than Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

At a press conference on Friday, the 25-year-old stressed his desire to help PSG achieve their dream of European glory.

“I wanted a new challenge. This was about ambition. My heart told me that it was time to sign for Paris Saint-Germain. It was the right time to leave Barcelona and find new challenges.

“I was never motivated by money. I thought above all else about of the happiness of my family, regardless of money. I regret that some people think this is the case.”

Check out the top 10 best paid players in world football in our gallery above.

*Figures according to Presse Sports

Most popular

MLS commissioner Don Garber is missing a big trick in developing the league

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Paulo Maldini (c) is co-owner of Miami FC with Riccardo Silva, whose TV deal was rejected.

Riccardo Silva is a clever man. The Italian, who made his millions selling TV rights, likes rustling a few feathers.

Ever since he teamed up with old friend Paolo Maldini to take charge of Miami FC, who play in the second tier of US soccer, Silva has attempted to break the stranglehold of MLS and force commissioner Don Garber to think outside of the box.

When his side in South Florida began three years ago, he told me about his vision for the club, how the open structure in NASL and assimilation with the rest of the soccer world would eventually make it a far more attractive proposition for owners.

MLS has a different transfer window, salary caps and restricted designated player spots. In truth, NASL has struggled financially with clubs folding and others finding it tough to attract decent crowds.

Yet his bugbear has been something Garber and the cosy club of franchise owners will never agree to: promotion and relegation. The single entity structure of MLS means everyone gets a piece of the pie.

All kits are made by adidas. All sponsorship and TV revenues are shared. Everyone is happy while allowing underperforming teams to sleepwalk through seasons knowing the cash will keep coming.

Franchise costs have now increased to $150 million with cities queuing up to join the party. That, though, won’t last forever.

Riccardo Silva

Riccardo Silva.

MLS have 24 teams next season following the introduction of a new LA side. One the limit – around 28 franchises – is hit, MLS will lose their most lucrative income stream in the shape of franchise fees.

Enter MP & Silva media group with a $4 billion offer to take control of the TV and media rights ($400m a year over 10 years) and introduce a pyramid system akin to England which would see movement up and down the divisions.

“I believe that MLS would be the major beneficiaries of an open, meritocratic system because it would stimulate greater fan interest, excitement, quality and engagement in the domestic game,” Silva wrote.

With the current TV deal not expiring until 2022 and with an option for the likes of ESPN and Fox to renew, the offer was, at best, theoretical. Naturally, MLS declined. That was always going to happen.

Too many millions have been invested into MLS for the owners to want to risk losing large chunks by dropping out of a top flight. They’ve always negotiated their own media rights, too.

Yet the timing from Silva, who has been a constant critic of the MLS structure, was brilliant. For the past two weeks, the now annual International Champions Cup tournament has been taking place in the United States with thousands of fans clamouring to see the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Manchester City.

I was at El Clasico in Miami on Saturday night and despite only being a friendly, the build up, the match itself, the atmosphere and the excitement generated was quite something.

Barcelona fans prepare for Clasico.

Barcelona fans prepare for Clasico.

Even Spurs v Roma in New York earlier in the week was played in front of a rarity at Red Bull Arena – a full house. The overly paranoid MLS fans have been predictably grumbling about the best players in the world from some of the biggest teams stealing their thunder.

Yet 65,000 fans paying upwards of $500 is emphatic proof, if needed, that soccer sells in the US. How MLS would love such exposure.

Seattle Sounders owner Merritt Paulson called for these kind of matches to be banned. Nonsense. They are meaningless yet meaningful. Soccer in the US needs all the help it can get and that’s why Silva’s proposal was so interesting.

MLS TV figures and attendances remain average but their teams relevance in their respective markets is minimal, especially in major media markets like Los Angeles and New York.

Garber’s hopes of his baby growing up into a elite world league remain fanciful. So why not shake it up? Do something different which would tap into the fervent soccer scene operating below the NASL and MLS.

There are new clubs sprouting up and the dream of working their way up to the top would generate interest in a sports scene where promotion and relegation are dirty words. It would be a fresh, brave, bold move. And one which sadly will never happen.

MLB

Aaron Judge

Aaron Judge.

Aaron Judge will think twice the next time he celebrates with the bench after smacking a homer.

The Yankees slugger has been a smash hit but last week he took a hit himself – and lost half a tooth in the process.

Amid all the excitement of bashing another his 33th home run of the season in the 6-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, he went crazy with his pals and smashed his mouth into Brett Gardner’s helmet. Judge was okay.

His front tooth however, wasn’t. A trip to the dentist followed and within the flash, or smash, of an eye, he was back at home plate doing what he does best.

“He got me pretty good,” said the gap toothed 6-foot-7 powerhouse. “Obviously we’re very relieved,” manager Joe Girardi said. “I’m sure it was a somewhat of an uncomfortable night for him last night.”

The agony however goes on. “I’m sure the ribbing will continue for a number of days. This will not stop after today, “ added Girardi with a smile, his own teeth fully intact.

NFL

The New York Jets are usually in the news for being absolutely hopeless. But they’ve created their own slice of history this summer by handing a coaching role to Collette Smith – the first woman to ever be involved with the Jets playing staff.

The 44-year-old has bagged an internship for the summer, helping out Dennard Wilson with the defence.

She becomes the third female to land a coaching spot in the NFL – Jen Welter did a similar summer stint with the Cardinals in 2015 while last year, Kathryn Smith was a quality-control coach for the whole season with the Buffalo Bills.

She will have her work cut out but no matter – Smith is living the dream. Growing up in Queens, she was a fully-paid member of the Gang Green and spent three years playing for the New York Sharks.

A knee injury ended her career but Smith has a keen eye for the game after watching the players being put through their paces.

It’s unclear if the contract will extend past the start of this season but it’s yet another good move by the NFL who need to show some positive, forward thinking ideas as the concussion scandal continues to shame the sport.

Most popular

Related Sections