Nine-Month Sprint to Showcase Cincinnati Culminates with Sounders Match

When asked how difficult it has been to get FC Cincinnati MLS-ready in nine months, Jeff Berding didn’t take the opportunity to feel sorry for himself.

“From the beginning, we planned to be in Major League Soccer in our fourth year,” said Berding. “We wanted to be the 24th team. We knew MLS had an odd number with LAFC coming onboard (last season). We wanted to be the team that, in effect, had a spotlight all to ourselves this year.”

Demonstrating they could handle the short runway was the price of admission for FC Cincinnati, according to Berding. “We did a lot of things to earn the confidence of Major League Soccer that we could make this transition and we did it in record-setting time.”

The work started right away. FCC planned and built enough of their new $30 million training facility to use it for preseason practice. They solidified sponsorship deals that now exceed $10 million, including new agreements with First Financial Bank, Advocare, Heineken, and Mike’s Car Wash. Add to that new TV and radio broadcast deals, a logo refresh, a kit launch, and overcoming stadium-construction hurdles at City Hall. To support these efforts, the front office staff of FC Cincinnati has doubled in size since the May MLS announcement.

More importantly, they had to build an MLS-ready squad. “We were the first USL team to sign a Designated Player. That had never been done before,” said Berding, referring to the acquisition of Fanendo Adi last July. Since then, technical director Luke Sassano has added 21 players to the squad, with one more rumored to be on the way.

“It’s been an enormous amount of work for our staff across the board,” said Berding. “But we felt being the 24th team set us up for success both as a club and for our city. Because the eyes of Major League Soccer this year will be on Cincinnati, and it won’t just be about wins and losses. It will be about the pictures coming out of Cincinnati. It will be about MLS teams and fans coming here and seeing our great city.”

FC Cincinnati’s rebuilt squad travels to Seattle for its first regular-season contest this Saturday at 10 pm ET. The match represents the culmination of a nine-month sprint to make the minor-league team ready to compete in the top flight.

“We didn’t want to share that spotlight with three teams, with Nashville, Miami, or Austin. And because this is so much about promoting Cincinnati on a national and international level, we wanted to be the one.”

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s inaugural MLS match against the Seattle Sounders.

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