FC Cincinnati fans have a lot to be optimistic about as they head into their third season as a professional franchise. The regular season doesn’t kick off until March, but the Orange and Blue will create plenty of headlines before then. Here’s what we’re most looking forward to in FC Cincinnati’s New Year.
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first. All eyes will be on Cincinnati’s bid for MLS expansion in January. After MLS announced Nashville’s expansion spot on December 20th, they delayed announcing the second expansion team without much explanation other than it will be announced in the “new year.”
The situation still looks promising for Cincinnati though. Detroit is still handicapped as the least likely to win a bid this round. Additionally, Sacramento’s ownership group recently revealed the departure of investor Meg Whitman and are now searching for additional equity partners. Both situations recently led to Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl predicting that the next spot will come to the Queen City.
“Cincinnati will be awarded an MLS expansion team, beating out a Sacramento bid that couldn’t get its financial backing fully in order in time.”
The latest rumors suggest that all that remains for FC Cincinnati to do is to get through the legal paperwork with MLS. We won’t know for sure until Don Garber is standing in Fountain Square with an announcement to make. Who’s ready to party?
Last season, Alan Koch was playing with a squad mostly assembled by John Harkes. The manager moved a number of players in and out of the team throughout the season in an attempt to find the right recipe. This year, he’s revamping the roster with a lineup built to his liking.
FC Cincinnati acquired eleven new players shortly after the close of the 2017 season. They added two goalkeepers, three center backs, two midfielders, three forwards, and Lance Laing who can play both left back and left wing. However, 17 players left the squad for various reasons. That leaves six roster spots still to fill if they want to match their 2017 roster size of 26 players.
Look for the transfer activity to heat up again once the MLS situation is resolved. If a spot in the top division of on tap for FC Cincinnati, it will change the complexion of who they can sign, especially if they begin play in 2019. Let’s not put the cart before the horse though.
USL Schedule Release
The much anticipated USL schedule release gives us the chance to earmark all the key dates and best matchups of the new year. We’ll highlight rivalry matches, plan away trips, and circle dates when teams we’ve never seen before will visit Nippert.
The rapidly growing USL will look markedly different again this year. The Western Conference adds Las Vegas and Fresno in 2018 but loses the dissolved Vancouver Whitecaps 2. The Eastern Conference adds Atlanta United’s “2 team”, Nashville SC, and North Carolina FC but sees the departure (hiatus) of the Rochester Rhinos. Note that some teams could shift conferences, as we’ve seen in past USL seasons.
The season will be longer with the addition of two games for a total of 34 matches. Those games will span 31 weeks, starting March 16th and ending October 14th. Last season the schedule release was delayed until January 31st due to the second division sanctioning drama. There’s drama in US Soccer yet again, so it’s likely that the schedule release date will be similar this year.
Preseason in Florida
February will see Alan Koch’s side once again head to the Sunshine State to prepare for the season ahead. We know they’ll take on the New England Revolution in Bradenton on February 6th. They’ll also likely participate in a full slate of games at the IMG Academy’s annual preseason tournament. Details on the full schedule at that tournament have yet to be announced. If March is too long to wait for your fix of the Orange and Blue, a trip to Florida in February can cure that and your Cincinnati winter blues.
FC Cincinnati won the IMG preseason tournament in 2016 prior to their inaugural season.
USL Opener at Nippert?
Of course, what we’re all really waiting for is a chance to get back to Nippert and cheer on our favorite team with our favorite people. In the past two seasons, FC Cincinnati started their USL campaign with multiple consecutive road games. In both cases, Nippert was under construction; first to lay down new turf in 2016 and then to expand the width of the field in 2017. Since Nippert is now ready for play, we may finally get a USL opener at home in March, and not have to wait until April to see all the new players in action.
There’s certainly a lot to look forward to, and we didn’t even get to the regular season, the existing Louisville rivalry, the new competition from Music City, and the US Open Cup. What are you most looking forward to in 2018?
Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s 2018 season. Happy New Year!