FC Cincinnati Selects Amaya and Four More Hopefuls in MLS SuperDraft

FC Cincinnati landed UCLA freshman and U.S. U-20 International Frankie Amaya with the #1 pick in Friday’s MLS SuperDraft.

FC Cincinnati landed UCLA freshman and U.S. U-20 International Frankie Amaya with the #1 pick in Friday’s MLS SuperDraft. That pick was then followed by four more picks — one more in the first round at #13, and three more in the second round.

Amaya addressed the crowd following his selection and relayed some heartfelt words about his path to being drafted at the top spot.

I’m just a kid from Santa Ana, California, . . .I’ve worked hard my whole life, . . .I didn’t believe in talent, just hard work.”

The draft started with some near-drama that didn’t quite pan out. LAFC made a last-minute attempt to persuade FC Cincinnati to part with their #1 pick. They reportedly offered $200K in allocation money and an international spot for the pick. FCC’s technical staff countered the offer, looking for substantially more allocation money, and LAFC declined. Therefore, Amaya became FC Cincinnati’s first-ever draft selection.

Here’s a graphic of FC Cincinnati’s first and second round draft followed by the vital information and some personal quotes from the players selected.

Graphic: Connor Paquette

Player profiles (linked in names) and values below are via MLS.

Round 1 – Pick 1 – Frankie Amaya

Age: 18
Position: Midfielder* (Generation adidas member)
From: Santa Ana, CA
College: UCLA
Stats: 2 goals, 2 assists in 14 games played in 2018. Member of the US U-20 national team that won the CONCACAF Title. 2018 USC Second Team All-Far West Region. 2018 First Team All-PAC-12 Conference.

Amaya remained humble with his selection as the top draft pick for FCC. “I didn’t really have any idea (about becoming #1),” he mentioned. “I just wanted to become a professional soccer player. . . . I’m blessed that I got #1.” Amaya also mentioned that one of his major influences was Andrés Iniesta during his Barcelona years.

Round 1 – Pick 13 – Logan Gdula

Age: 22
Position: Defender
From: East Lyme, CT
College: Wake Forest University
Stat: 2 goals, 14 assists over 4 years with WFU. Helped anchor a back line that totaled 46 clean sheets all 4 years. Played USL PDL (now USL League 2) soccer with Carolina Dynamo.

Gdula was very emotional with his selection, thanking his mother for everything. “She just did everything for me and made sure that I became successful. She worked her hardest, never gave up on me, and never gave up on herself.” Gdula also admitted that he was a Ronaldo fan during his years at Manchester United.

Round 1 – Pick 16 – TRADED

Round 2 – Pick 25 – TRADED

Both the #16 and #25 picks were traded to New York Red Bulls for $100,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM).

Round 2 – Pick 29 Tommy McCabe

Age: 20
Position: Defensive Midfielder
From: South Orange, NJ
College: University of Notre Dame
Stat: 4 assists in 61 games over 3 years at Notre Dame. Third Team All-ACC in 2018. ACC All-Freshman Team in 2016.

McCabe noted his attachment to Arsenal and Thierry Henry, especially when he joined New York. “Living in New Jersey when he came to the Red Bulls, I would always go watch him play. I know we’re not the same type of player at all, but I loved watching him play.” He also admired Michael Bradley from the U.S. national team.

Round 2 – Pick 30 Jimmy Hague

Age: 22
Position: Goalkeeper
From: Walled Lake, MI
College: Michigan State University
Stat: Had 26 clean sheets in 62 games over 3 years for MSU. Selected as Second Team All-Big 10 in 2018. Was Big 10 Goalkeeper of the Year in 2017.

Hague noted that he seemed to enjoy the bond with GK coach Jack Stern at the combine. “I really liked (Jack), because he was really down-to-earth. It sounds like he’s going to push me my hardest.”

Round 2 – Pick 37 Ben Lundt

Age: 23
Position: Goalkeeper
From: Berlin, Germany (German citizenship)
College: University of Akron
Stat: Had 27 clean sheets in 64 games started for Akron over the past three years. Second Team All-MAC in 2018. Played for the U17 and U23 Hertha Berlin teams.

Lundt has yet to visit Cincinnati, but expressed his appreciation to be drafted and to stay within Ohio. He also listed both Oliver Kahn and Manuel Neuer as influences. “But I try really to do my own style and take a little bit from everyone,” he stated.

Third and Fourth Rounds

The draft isn’t over. The final two rounds will take place on Sunday, January 13 via conference call at 2 pm Eastern Time. FC Cincinnati has three more picks remaining in the third and fourth rounds. They will make selections at the #49, #61, and #85 spots.

NOTE: The day and time was later changed to Monday, January 14th at 1pm Eastern Time.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati and the 2019 MLS SuperDraft.

UPDATE: FCC Officially Breaks Ground on the West End Stadium

The partnership between FC Cincinnati and the West End community took another step forward with Tuesday’s groundbreaking ceremony.

There isn’t much time on the clock for FC Cincinnati to prepare for the upcoming 2019 MLS season. Even the schedule for portions further down the line need to progress. With so many moving pieces already in operation, the FCC ownership group and key members of the West End community welcomed guests and fans to the site of the future FC Cincinnati stadium for a formal breaking of ground.

Fans were invited to attend the event on the grounds of the former Stargel Stadium. While much of the stadium has been demolished and cleared out, the blue “CINCINNATI” endzone remained as a stage between phases. Attendees were provided orange and blue commemorative FCC shovels, as well as a free Skyline Coney.

The ceremony, hosted by former Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory, featured speeches by team figureheads Jeff Berding and Carl Lindner III, as well other key players in this major project:

  • MLS Commissioner Don Garber
  • Major John Cranley
  • Keith Blake, President of the West End Community Council
  • Denise Driehaus, Board VP for the Hamilton County Commission
  • Ericka Copeland-Dansby, VP of the Cincinnati Public Schools Board of Education
  • Laura Brunner, President and CEO of The Port
  • David Spaulding, Turner Construction & Dan Meis, Meis Architecture

The speakers provided some insight on the progress towards the West End Stadium, as well as some things that still need coverage:

  • Garber noted that the opening of the West End Stadium will mark the 23rd soccer-specific stadium in Major League Soccer. “The amount of energy and the amount of work with this ownership group and the public sector led by the Mayor is nothing short of remarkable,” Garber praised.
  • Blake looked back on the history of major-league sporting events in the West End’s Crosley Field and Stargel Stadium, but was also hopeful for the future Community Benefits Agreement signed between team and community. “I believe it is awesome that the world’s most popular sport has a home in the West End,” Blake stressed.
  • Copeland-Dansby provided reminders of the benefits that FCC would provide the school district and community in the form of property taxes, a new $10 million Stargel Stadium, and investments in community funds and local scholarships.
  • Spaulding gave a bit of a general timeline on the stadium’s completion by March 2021. Foundation work will begin in March 2019, followed by structural steel placement in late 2019 that will finish by the first quarter of 2020. The workforce will average around 250 people on site per day, with a maximum of 400 per day at the climax.

While the ceremony was generally commemorative, there is still quite a bit left to accomplish before construction can occur. Sharon Coolidge from the Enquirer points out that land still needs to be purchased and logistics need to be determined for parking and city permits.

However, for the most part, this was still a day that both the FCC faithful and partners were happy to see. Berding emphasized that there’s so much more to do, but also so much more excitement on the way.

“We have a lot ahead of us in Major League Soccer. We’re both excited and anxious to get going. The last few weeks–and especially the last ten days–have been a whirlwind as we begin to craft our inaugural roster that will take the field for us in March, proudly representing Cincinnati. So today’s is really the perfect topper of all this activity.”

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of how the West End Stadium project develops over the upcoming months.

We’re in! #MLS2CINCY, It Had to Be; Garber: “Your fans have shocked the world”

FC Cincinnati was announced as the 26th MLS expansion team by commissioner Don Garber on Tuesday, May 29th at Rhinegeist Brewery.

Image: Joe Craven

Don Garber visited Cincinnati on Tuesday with a “special announcement” about the future of soccer in Cincinnati. FC Cincinnati supporters, players, coaches, media, and of course the front office and owners packed into Rhinegeist Brewery for the half hour presentation.

FC Cincinnati live-streamed the event on the big screen at Fountain Square. The majority of fans attended there and celebrated at the party hosted by 3CDC that featured food, drink, a DJ, and lots of FCC gear.

Fast Facts

  • FC Cincinnati was announced as the 26th MLS expansion team by Commissioner Don Garber.
  • They will start play in MLS in 2019 at Nippert Stadium.
  • The club’s proposed 21,000 seat stadium to be built in the city’s West End neighborhood is scheduled to be completed in 2021.
  • As previously announced, Mercy Health will be the team’s jersey sponsor, starting with the 2019 MLS season.
  • FC Cincinnati’s MLS conference has not yet been determined, but will be finalized in the coming months. The assumption is that it will be the Eastern Conference, but the decision is dependent on several factors.
  • Season ticket members have priority in seat selection for the inaugural 2019 MLS season. Fans without priority can earn a higher priority in 2019 by purchasing pro-rated 2018 season tickets from now until June 30th. On Monday July 2nd, FCC will begin taking $50 deposits for 2019 season tickets.
  • Average MLS attendance for 2017 was an all-time high at 22,106 per game. FCC’s current attendance for the 2018 season stands just under 24,500 fans per game.

Commissioner Garber confirmed in the post-event press conference that the long delay in a decision was related to the ability to secure the West End Stadium site.

Tonight’s event is the culmination of 18 months of negotiations between FC Cincinnati and MLS. Those are the basics. Stay tuned to Orange & Blue press for images and more color from Tuesday’s #MLS2CINCY celebration.

Reaction to Upcoming MLS Expansion Announcement

An announcement next Tuesday looks likely to be an invitation for FC Cincinnati to join Major League Soccer. O&B Press’ editor penned a few words in reaction to what the news means to him and soccer fans in the city.

Image: JES Photography
On Thursday, FC Cincinnati fans finally. . .and I mean finally, got news of Don Garber’s intention to visit the Queen City for an announcement regarding the team’s bid for MLS expansion. It’s been a long road and we, at Orange & Blue Press, have written our fair share about expansion over the past two years. I’ve personally been vocal about blocking out the drama surrounding the circus, in favor of focusing on the actual soccer being played. I penned a few words summarizing my reaction to the news, assuming Tuesday’s announcement is the expected invitation to join Major League Soccer.

Yesterday’s long-awaited news leaves me with a feeling of joy, elation, relief, and optimism quickly followed by a stirring panic…holy sh*t, there’s a LOT to do between now and January of 2019 when a potential MLS preseason camp would start.

And I don’t actually have to do anything besides observe, enjoy it all, and write a few words on this blog. Nevertheless, the club has a huge task ahead and a lot of pieces to put in place in nine months to be MLS ready.

But right now is not the time for those worries. It’s time to take a step back, truly pause and savor the moment because it’s historic and important for this city. It’s time to appreciate the fact that we are able to be around the club, observing and supporting, during this formative time.

Deserved Accolades

A massive thank you and congratulations are in order for Jeff Berding, the ownership group, and the tireless staff at FC Cincinnati. Mr. Berding is still villainized by some for his involvement in the Paul Brown Stadium deal however many years ago. But man, am I glad he was in charge of this one. A unique skill set was needed and he brought that to accomplish so much with this franchise in just under three years.

He and his staff leveraged his sales executive experience from the Bengals and combined it with the political skills he garnered on city council. He mixed these two like peanut butter and chocolate for a delicious recipe that resulted in bringing this team to the highest level of American soccer. Let’s not forget that it takes money and influence too, lots and lots of it. Thank you Carl Lindner III and the entire ownership group for that.

Also, congratulations and thank you to all those involved in the Build It Here effort and anyone who got involved. You battled against some long odds to help make a stadium location in the urban core a reality.

The Importance of an MLS Franchise

The reason why this opportunity is important, and the thing I am most thankful for, is that this news should ensure the sustainability of professional soccer in the Queen City for some time to come. We’ve had our fair share of false starts with pro soccer here in the Queen City. And this news certainly doesn’t guarantee top level soccer here forever. Only enduring support, committed local owners, ambitious but responsible club management, and the financial growth and success of soccer in our country can do that.

The USL has been a great partner since 2015 and its growth is impressive. I hope that growth continues and that a strong and healthy pyramid develops in the lower leagues, maybe even one that can support promotion and relegation. But right now, the lower leagues are still volatile, and the long-term profits that FCC’s investors are understandably seeking will likely exist only in the top flight. Right now, there aren’t guaranteed profits even at that level. This is a long-term high stakes play for the team’s investors. Playing in the top league in our country helps ensure that continued investment.

If you would, also take a moment during this time to think about our soccer-loving brethren in Columbus, who are still fighting for their team. I very much hope that this news does not come at the expense of our rival to the north, who started their journey over 20 years ago.

Finally, I can’t wait to enjoy this with our soccer-loving city…the next week is gonna be great. A very sincere and humble thank you to everyone who has followed along with Orange & Blue Press during the past two plus years. We appreciate every reader and hope to bring you continued high-quality soccer and statistics-rich coverage of the team in 2019 and beyond.

MLS Expansion 101

MLS Expansion 101 provides the basics of the current MLS expansion picture to reference as the expansion race unfolds for FC Cincinnati in 2017.

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2017 will be an important year for FC Cincinnati both on and off the field. Off the field, MLS expansion will be at the center of the conversation throughout the year. In light of this, Orange and Blue Press sets the stage with the basics of the current MLS expansion picture to reference as the race unfolds.

How Did We Get Here?

MLS was founded with ten teams and played its first season over 20 years ago in 1996. The league has gone through ten expansion cycles since and has 20 teams as of the close of the 2016 season. This article provides a summary of these expansion cycles: History of MLS Expansion

Planned Expansion

The next few rounds of expansion are already planned.

2017 – MLS will expand to 22 teams with the addition of Minnesota United FC and Atlanta United FC. It’s the year of the “United” teams. For a little more on the historical use of United in team names, see this article.

2018 – Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) will begin play next year, adding a second team to Los Angeles, and bringing the league to 23 teams.

Timeline Unclear – “Miami Beckham United,” the David Beckham led expansion project, will bring the league to 24 teams. This bid has been plagued by problems but MLS seems committed to making it work due to the size of Miami’s market and David Beckham’s influence and appeal.

2020 Expansion and Beyond

Over the past two years, several new ownership groups have formed and many cities have expressed interest in joining the league. In April of 2016, MLS announced that it will continue expansion from 24 to 28 teams. Some expect further expansion, but there is no guarantee that more markets will be considered.

MLS has been criticized for lack of transparency in their expansion process. Following the Board of Governors meeting in December of 2016, MLS announced the rules, expansion fees, and timelines for teams 25 and 26 in an attempt to shed light on the criteria they will use for evaluation. They also provided some, but not complete information, on the criteria for teams 27 and 28.

Criteria for Expansion Teams 25 through 28

There are twelve markets being considered for the next four expansion slots, representing teams 25 through 28.  They are as follows, in alphabetical order:

Markets Being Considered:
Charlotte
Cincinnati
Detroit
Nashville
Raleigh/Durham
Sacramento
St. Louis
San Antonio
San Diego
Tampa/St. Petersburg
Phoenix
Indianapolis

Expansion Fee: $150M for teams 25 and 26, likely to increase for teams 27 and 28

Expansion Application Due Date:  January 31st, 2017

Decision Criteria:
(1) Committed ownership with resources to invest in soccer infrastructure
(2) An attractive market that is geographically desirable, has fan support, and is attractive to TV and corporate sponsors
(3) A comprehensive stadium plan

Decision Timeline: Third quarter of 2017 for teams 25 and 26, no timeline yet for a decision on teams 27 and 28

Decision Committee: Owners of 5 current MLS clubs including Jonathan Kraft (New England Revolution), Andrew Hauptman (Chicago Fire), Anthony Precourt (Columbus Crew SC), Phil Rawlins (Orlando City SC) and Jay Sugarman (Philadelphia Union)

Year expansion teams will play in MLS: 2020 for teams 25 and 26, undecided for teams 27 and 28

Recommended Reading

Almost every major sports news outlet has published articles on MLS expansion. Orange & Blue Press recommends the following articles as quality sources if you are looking to dig into the details.

MLS Expansion Press Release (December 15, 2016) – Read this if you want to hear all the details of MLS’ recent rules for expansion straight from the horse’s mouth.

Planet Futbol – Brian Straus – Mr. Straus has been covering the expansion topic on si.com for some time. He is presenting an in-depth analysis of each market in January as the application deadline approaches. You should read them.

Fifty Five One – This article was released right after the December 15 MLS announcement. It summarizes and ranks the ten original cities in contention.

Is there other information that you would like to see in an MLS expansion tutorial? Make a comment below.

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Como FC Cincinnati cambio la ciudad

Como Cincinnati paso de ser una ciudad de baseball o fútbol americano a ser una de las ciudades más futboleras de los Estados Unidos. Comenzó con FC Cincinnati.

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En agosto del 2015 hubo un anuncio que cambiaría a toda la ciudad de Cincinnati por completo. FC Cincinnati, nuevo equipo profesional de fútbol/soccer. Al principio hubo muchas preguntas si este equipo iba a ser exitoso, ya que han habido otros equipos en el pasado en esta ciudad que por problemas financieros y falta de apoyo de la afición, tuvieron que cerrar puertas en Cincinnati. La pregunta era, este club podrá ser diferente a los otros que han intentado estar en la ciudad en el pasado?

FC Cincinnati, estaba determinado a ganarse su afición, y tomo algunas decisiones para llegar a ello. Los siguientes puntos fueron los pasos que el club tomo que fueron ganando la confianza de los amantes al fútbol/soccer y residentes de Cincinnati.

  • Anuncio MLS: En agosto cuando el equipo fue anunciado también anunciaron que su meta no solo era tener un equipo profesional en la USL (al momento 3ra división) sino su meta principal era tener un equipo profesional en la  MLS (1ra división de Estados Unidos.) Cuando el club anuncio esto, hubo una reacción mixta en la ciudad, hubieron las personas que se emocionaron con algún día tener su equipo en primera división; mientras otros fueron un poco más difíciles de convencer, y hasta el momento estaban en lo cierto, era un nuevo equipo que todavía no había ni jugado su primer partido oficial y ni jugadores habían contratado hasta el momento. Pero este pensar estaba por cambiar.
  • Contratación de John Harkes: Cuando empiezas un equipo profesional de cero tienes que hacerlo en orden y así el club lo planeaba. El primer paso fue la contratación del primer Director técnico en la historia del club, John Harkes. Para los que no saben esta contratación hizo mucha bulla. John Harkes es una leyenda del futbol Estadounidense. John en su carrera colegial jugo en el medio Campo de la universidad de Virginia  1985-1987, fue la promesa del fútbol estadounidense de ese entonces, de ahí jugo en clubes muy importantes en Inglaterra como Sheffield Wednesday, Derby County, West Ham United y Nottingham Forest. También fue la estrella y capitán del New England Revolution cuando regreso a Estados Unidos. Jugo para selecciones del Pais de 1987 al 2000, siendo así el referente del fútbol Estadounidense. En otras palabras la contratación de John Harkes en Cincinnati fue una gran noticia en toda la nación y el primer paso a algo grande que comenzaría a ganarse la confianza de la ciudad.
  • Formando Plantilla: Sabemos que formar una plantilla de cero no es algo fácil, pero antes de hace público que John Harkes estaría al mando del equipo, él ya estaba trabajando. Viajando a diferentes países, mirando jugadores como en España  donde  encontró a Alvaro Anton Ripoll, también asistió al mundial sub 20 en nueva Zelanda, donde encontró a una de las más grandes promesas de Panamá, Francisco Narbon.

    narbon
    Francisco Narbon

    Pero John sabía que iba a necesitar a alguien local al cual los amantes al fútbol/soccer reconocieran. Ahí fue cuando contacto a Austin Berry. Austin nacido en Cincinnati, Ohio en 1988 fue uno de los mejores jugadores colegiales en la nación, jugando para la Universidad de Louisville. Comenzó su carrera profesional siendo escogido en la primera ronda del super draft por Chicago Fire equipo de la MLS, también jugo para el Philadelphia Union (MLS) y FC Anyang de la K League Challenge (primera división de Corea del Sur). La plantilla fue tomando forma en pretemporada, ganado el torneo de la academia IMG en Florida, obteniendo victorias ante equipos de Islandia y al gran NY City FC de la MLS, con jugadores como el italiano Andrea Pirlo y el español David Villa.

  • Temporada inaugural: Antes de que la temporada inaugural comenzara Jeff Berding (presidente de FC Cincinnati) menciono que la meta era tener un promedio de 10 mil aficionados por partido en la temporada 2016 Teniendo en cuenta que la USL (3ra división) a la cual el club seria miembro, tuvo un promedio de asistencia de 3,369 por partido. Muchos pensaron que FC Cincinnati no podría obtener su meta de 10 mil por partido, pero el club cayo muchas bocas, cuando su partido inaugural en Nippert Stadium tuvo más de 14 mil en asistencia, nadie lo podía creer, este fue el momento donde muchas personas se dieron cuenta que este equipo tenía algo grande planeado para esta ciudad, la asistencia solo siguió creciendo hasta romper el récord de la liga en asistencia con 30,189 en asistencia en el juego de postemporada ante Charleston Battery.   No solo eso, FC Cincinnati invirtió en traer a Crystal Palace equipo de la Premier League de Inglaterra (1ra división) para un amistoso, y teniendo así  asistencia de más de 35,000 aficionados en Nippert Stadium. En su primera temporada el club termino con un promedio de 17,296 en asistencia por partido.
  • Proceso a la MLS: Mientras tanto, el comisionado de la MLS Don Garber tomaba nota de todo lo que ocurría en Cincinnati. El club se puso en contacto con Don y lo invito a que viniera a Cincinnati a conocer la ciudad y a un evento junto a la afición; esto ocurrió en noviembre del 2016 y fue todo un éxito, Don menciono como la ciudad ha crecido en su cultura futbolística y que Cincinnati se merece un equipo de la MLS.

La competencia por tomar uno de los cupos de la expansión MLS está difícil, hay equipos luchando por su cupo, al igual que FC Cincinnati, pero lo que sabemos de seguro es que la directiva está haciendo todo lo posible para estar en la MLS en un futuro, la afición se ha enamorado de este nuevo club profesional de la ciudad. MLS o USL, donde quiera que juegue FC Cincinnati tendrá apoyo de la afición.

Actualmente el club está a punto de comenzar su pretemporada para este torneo en la USL, que ahora es 2da división por su excelente organización, calidad dentro de la cancha y rápido crecimiento. Ya han vendido más de 9,000 boletos de temporada, se espera que en la segunda temporada del club sigan rompiendo récords, creciendo fuera y dentro de la cancha y ya hay planes de construcción de su propia cantera donde estrenaran a los futuros jugadores promesas de Cincinnati. Únete, asiste a los partidos y se parte de lo grande que está pasando en nuestra ciudad.

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Could MLS Expansion Be the Wrong Move for FC Cincinnati?

One supporter offers a different viewpoint on FC Cincinnati’s bid for MLS expansion, and asks what is in the best long term interest of the club.

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Editor’s Note: A lot has been written about FC Cincinnati’s bid for MLS expansion. Many of those articles assume that expansion is inherently desirable and make little mention of possible risks involved in competing in the expansion race. While Orange & Blue press is clearly a supporter of #MLS2CINCY, I thought it was worthwhile to balance the conversation with the voice of a supporter who’s uncertain whether expansion, at the current pace and under the current conditions, is in the best long term interest of the club. He refers to himself as the Losantiville Firm, and submitted the following viewpoint to Orange and Blue Press which we are pleased to share.

You have been to the games and heard the attendance numbers, 15,000…20,000…even 30,000 fans screaming one thing in unison. We represent a teeming grass roots movement akin to Obama’s campaign that summed up a hive mindset with one phrase…“yes we can!” What is the slogan those 30,000 FC Cincinnati fans are screaming?

“MLS or Bust!”

As fans we want to take that next step. We will do whatever we can to make this club a success. Success is making it to MLS, right? Or could the pursuit of MLS be our downfall? Are we so quick to chase the MLS dream that we don’t see any inherent danger in the endeavor? What happens if FC Cincinnati spends all the money, meets every Don Garber sanctioned requirement and then…doesn’t get in? Would there be a point for having FC Cincinnati any longer? I say yes of course, but what irrevocable damage could be done by rushing to make such a speculative gamble?

Let’s take Sacramento Republic FC’s bid as a case study. If Sacramento has taught us anything, it is that we are relying on the fickle requirements of MLS, and they have all of the advantages in this negotiation. MLS has an excessive number of clubs interested in expansion. All of those clubs have strengths and deficiencies, but few have a more complete package than Sacramento. The fact that they have not yet been offered a spot, and have recently fallen from grace as the “expansion darling,” should give us pause.

By holding off on inviting Sacramento, MLS has shown they hold all the cards. We as supporters of the club should not make hitting MLS benchmarks our measurement of success. MLS is looking to advance their own interests with expansion. FC Cincinnati should look to advance its own interests first and foremost. They should do so in a controlled manner that may not include joining in MLS’s near term expansion. They should instead focus on their own infrastructure, financial goals, and carve out their own unique niche in the international soccer landscape.

By focusing on making ourselves a healthy and well rounded club, we stand to make a greater long term impact and create a more attractive club. With the current MLS TV deal coming up for renegotiation in 2022, we could position ourselves as a reliable and growing soccer market. By that time MLS may find fewer desirable expansion markets than what they currently have. Then again, the opportunity could be gone. So I say go for MLS, but I refuse to allow FC Cincinnati to risk failure, just to meet arbitrary benchmarks that may not be in our club’s best interest.

Regardless of whether you agree or disagree, different viewpoints and ongoing dialogue about what is in the best long term interest of FC Cincinnati is a recipe for a healthy supporters’ culture. 

MLS Expansion – What Did We Learn About FC Cincinnati’s Bid? (Editorial)

MLS Expansion: 2017 will be a pivotal year on and off the field for FC Cincinnati, with the lens of MLS expansion focusing clearly by year’s end.

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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.

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Garber Lays Out MLS Expansion Process for FC Cincinnati

Garber Lays Out MLS Expansion Process: On Thursday, the MLS Commissioner outlined the process, fees and timeline for the next round of MLS expansion.

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On Thursday afternoon, Commissioner Don Garber socialized MLS’ latest expansion guidelines at a press conference following the MLS Board of Governors meeting in New York.

The Commissioners comments focused on the expansion process for MLS expansion slots 25 thru 28, the fees associated, and the timeline of the evaluation process.

Garber first announced the teams that have formally expressed interest in MLS expansion (in alphabetical order) as Charlotte, Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville, Raleigh/Durham, Sacramento, St. Louis, San Antonio, San Diego and Tampa/St. Petersburg.

Second, Garber addressed the “Beckham situation” and the seemingly faltering plan to establish a MLS team in Miami. In short, there was no new news. Garber said that MLS will “continue to work with David Beckham and partners (to establish) a club in Miami.” There was no indication made that the slot could be available for one of the other interested cities.

Third, he outlined the process for expansion. To do so, he clarified the criteria for evaluation as follows.

  1. Committed ownership who is passionate about soccer and has the resources to invest in it
  2. A market/city with a history of strong fan support for soccer with additional considerations of size, geographic location, and corporate support
  3. A comprehensive stadium plan

Garber stated that all ten cities would be required to submit expansion applications to the league by Jan 31st, 2017. Those teams would then need work with the MLS expansion committee to conduct meetings and vet their application. The meetings will take place during the first three quarters of 2017. Applicants will be required to submit a variety of different documentation such as ownership structure, financial details, their stadium site plan with relevant government approvals, financial projections for soccer support, and an expression of support from the local soccer community.

Four winning bids from that process will be announced in two groups of two. The first two will be announced in the second or third quarter of 2017 and will start play in the 2020 MLS season. The entry fee for those clubs will be $150 MM. The second set of two clubs and the corresponding fee will be announced at a later date.

FC Cincinnati President and General Manager Jeff Berding released the following statement afterward.

“We are honored to be among the 10 cities invited to participate in Major League Soccer’s formal expansion process. Considering that our franchise launched just over a year ago in August of 2015, we feel the invitation from the MLS and Commissioner Don Garber is a testament to our rising city of Cincinnati. The support we have received from our fans, the business community and our civic leaders in our inaugural year shows that professional soccer at the highest level thrives here. Commissioner Garber’s visit was a cooperative effort that included our supporters, our partners at UC and our corporate partners and we were ecstatic he was able to see first-hand what is occurring here in our major-league hometown.  

Clearly, we have a lot of work ahead in a short period of time, but there was nothing that we heard today that discourages us. Cincinnati and our ownership have what it takes to successfully bid for MLS expansion. We have been working to build our infrastructure since day one because we have been and will always be committed to being the strongest franchise we can be. We have been clear about our commitment to bring professional soccer at the highest level to Cincinnati, and we are enthusiastic about the opportunity to continue that building effort with the MLS.” 

Find the full MLS press release here.

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FC Cincinnati Entertains Garber and MLS Aspirations

FC Cincinnati Entertains Garber and MLS Aspirations: MLS commissioner Don Garber toured Cincinnati and addressed MLS expansion hopes at Tuesday’s Town Hall.

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MLS Commissioner Don Garber spent Tuesday on a whizz-bang tour of Cincinnati, which culminated in a Town Hall meeting focused on FC Cincinnati’s bid for MLS expansion. The takeaway sentiment conveyed by Major League Soccer’s chief executive was that FC Cincinnati is a bona fide contender for expansion, but there’s still work to do.

ESPN commentator and analyst Taylor Twellman participated in Tuesday’s festivities at his own expense and emceed the event.

Garber made several stops during his tour of the Queen City. His caravan was followed by an impassioned group of supporters that serenaded the commissioner at each destination.

He started the day in meetings with FC Cincinnati’s ownership group, led by local businessman Carl Lindner III, at Great American Tower. He next toured the team’s playing venue, Nippert Stadium, both by foot and helicopter (for that all important aerial view).

Thereafter, the Soccer Don met Mayor John Cranley and took a motor tour of the city’s urban core before catching up with the supporters groups. At Rhinehaus pub, he toasted the team’s most devout fans, congratulated them on their record setting season, and buoyed their hopes for MLS expansion.

The Town Hall event itself lasted ninety minutes and was opened by owner Carl Lindner III and general manager Jeff Berding. After a screening of the newly released 2016 Season Highlights Video, Garber took the stage. He spoke in generous terms about the team’s success. He then fielded audience questions while Twellman directed traffic and added levity.

Garber emphasized that the strength of the FC Cincinnati bid currently lies in its ownership group, high quality leadership, and passionate fan base. He applauded Nippert Stadium as an excellent venue but hinted that a successful MLS bid may be tied to a long term plan for a stadium owned by the club.

“There is a lot that we need to figure out as a league (MLS) and there is a lot that still needs to be done here…to continue to build this club, to continue to grow its fanbase, to continue to figure out what its long term stadium solution is. I am very impressed by what’s happening here. Cincinnati deserves a MLS team. Every journey starts with a first step and that first step was today.”

Want more? Watch the full video of the #MLS2CINCY Town Hall here.