In the wake of Thursday’s MLS expansion press conference, let’s review what new nuggets of information FC Cincinnati supporters are left with.
Miami’s Definitely In (…probably,…ok there’s a good chance, we think) – Garber and MLS seem committed to waiting and making it work with David Beckham and Miami in the 24th expansion slot. Beckham’s an international celebrity and the profile and attention his ownership presence would bring is something the league cannot find elsewhere. It’s also a huge TV market. It seemed that there might be a way in for another city, but commandeering the 24th spot seems an unlikely opportunity for FC Cincinnati. Beckham is still messing things up for teams I support three years after his retirement and that’s just annoying
Dates and Dollars – There’s been no shortage of ambiguity and conjecture about what it takes to get into MLS, how expansion candidates will be evaluated, and when decisions would be made. There’s now a clear high level plan for the next two expansion cities including dates, dollars and written criteria related to what’s important. Applications are due on January 31st, the expansion fee is $150M and two cities will be selected by Q3 of 2017. For the 10 cities competing, the playing field is now defined at a high level.
Two Deferred – While the plan is clear for expansion slots 25 and 26, the Soccer Don likes to leave some things unsettled. The decision timeline on teams 27 and 28 is not confirmed, nor is the price tag. I’m guessing the expansion fee won’t go down, just a hunch. On the positive side, we can still argue and write articles speculating about this.
There’s a lot we already knew about the state of FC Cincinnati’s bid due to Don Garber’s recent Town Hall in Cincinnati. Thursday’s press conference re-emphasized several known points.
The timeframe is 2020 or beyond – Think positive and call it 2020. This means at least three more seasons in the lower leagues for FC Cincinnati, and that’s not a bad thing (last season was pretty damn fun right?) Most dedicated FC Cincinnati supporters are bullish on MLS expansion but committed to supporting the club at whatever level it plays. The deferred timetable for teams 27 and 28 also means a successful bid could see FC Cincinnati enter MLS after 2020.
FC Cincinnati is Well Positioned – Many of the criteria emphasized by Garber on Thursday are right in FC Cincinnati’s wheelhouse. The team has influential ownership, strong finances, corporate support, and of course a large and growing fan base (our ace in the hole). There’s certainly no shortage of competition though, and some big kids just got in the lunch line with the entry of contenders Tampa Bay Rowdies and North Carolina FC.
The Stadium is a Big Deal – One of the key pillars for expansion is of course a stadium, and preferably a team-owned soccer specific one. While Nippert is and will continue to be a fantastic venue for our young club, it’s likely the weakest part of the current bid. MLS wants to see a clear path to a soccer specific stadium and that was emphasized again in Thursday’s press conference. FC Cincinnati ownership and the front office will have to make that path clear over the next six months.
2017 will be a pivotal year both on and off the field for FC Cincinnati, with the lens of MLS expansion focusing clearly by year’s end.
What do you think? How strong is FC Cincinnati’s bid? Does the clearer picture of the MLS expansion process make you confident the Orange and Blue will get a spot? Leave a comment below.