FC Cincinnati MLS Roster Building and Key Dates

Photo by Joe Craven

Now that #CrestGate is waning and “Gary the Knifey Lion” is a thing, it’s time to focus attention on FC Cincinnati’s 2019 MLS roster.

As background, MLS active rosters comprise of up to 30 players. Anyone of these players are eligible for selection on an 18-man match day roster. However, there are various levels of roster spots available to FCC, with the following distinct parameters.

FC Cincinnati Senior Roster – spots 1 – 20

  • these player slots count against the club’s salary budget (cap) which was $4,035,000 in 2018.
  • spots 19 & 20 are not required to be filled, meaning the salary cap can be spread against 18 players, if desired.
  • a single player can carry a maximum budget charge ($504,375 in 2018). Note that allocation money (General and Targeted) can be used to buy down this amount per player.
  • exceptions to these spots include Season-Ending Injury ReplacementsDisabled List, and Loans.

Supplemental Roster, spots 21 – 24

  • these roster spots may be filled with (i) Senior Minimum Salary Budget Charge Players ($67,500 in 2018) including Homegrown Players, (ii) Generation Adidas Players, or (iii) any specifically Designated Players eligible for the MLS SuperDraft; or (iv) Homegrown Players earning more than the Senior Minimum Salary subject to the  Homegrown Player Subsidy.
  • all Generation Adidas players are considered Supplemental Roster players until they graduate from the program.
  • all players on the Supplemental Roster must be paid a base salary equal to the Senior Minimum Salary ($67,500).

Reserve Roster, spots 25 – 28

  • roster slots 25-28 may be filled with players earning either (i) the Reserve Minimum Salary (US$54,500 in 2018) or (ii) Homegrown Players earning more than the Reserve Minimum Salary subject to the Homegrown Player Subsidy.
  • Reserve Minimum Salary Players must be 24 years or younger during the League Year (age of a player is determined by year, not their actual day of birth).
  • these slots may not be filled with Senior Minimum Salary Players or Generation Adidas Players.
  • these player spots must be paid a base salary equal to the Reserve Minimum Salary ($54,500).

Reserve Roster, spots 29 and 30

  • roster spots 29 and 30 must be Homegrown Players. They will also follow the same roster and budget rules as Homegrown Players occupying spots 25-28.

The pressing question now is how, when and where the club will fill these roster spots?  For simplicity purposes, the following breakdown and discussion centers around the Senior Roster spots.

Currently, Fanendo Adi, Fatai Alashe, and the just awarded 2018 USL MVP Emmanuel Ledesma are signed to MLS contracts. We have also seen credible media reports stating that FCC is bringing back inaugurals Corben Bone and Jimmy McLaughlin, as well as 2018 USL Defender of the Year Forrest Lasso. Let’s check-in with the Orange & Blue Press FCC Roster graphic that illustrates the current MLS roster moves (which we’ll be updating and sharing with each signing).

FCC Roster Mission-Control
Graphic: Connor Paquette

With six Senior Roster spots spoken for, where will the next 14 senior players come from?

Alan Koch joined Sirius XM FC’s the United States of Soccer host Jason Davis on Wednesday. He remarked that the club will be relatively aggressive in the off-season, but will also take a sound, fiscally responsible approach. They are looking to fill the remaining roster spots from the following mechanisms:

  • the current group of USL players
  • unprotected MLS players available in the upcoming Expansion Draft (see below)
  • open market transfers / free agency from “Planet Earth”
  • the college draft – MLS SuperDraft
  • trades

Alan Koch, Luke Sassano, and the scouting team are scouring the world looking for talent to add as possible free agents. Closer to home and upcoming over the next five weeks are several upcoming MLS draft events, including:

Expansion Draft – Tuesday, December 11th at 2 pm

FC Cincinnati will have an advantage as the lone expansion team entering the 2019 season. They will have the ability to pick up to 5 players from the eligible Expansion Draft player pool (players left unprotected by their current 2018 teams). FCC may only select one player from a given team.

Added to the mix this year is that the five teams that this season’s MLS newcomer LAFC selected 2018 Expansion Draft players from are exempt from the 2019 Expansion Draft – Columbus Crew SC, Seattle Sounders FC, Sporting Kansas City, San Jose Earthquakes and Toronto FC. The other 18 returning MLS clubs are able to protect 11 players between their Senior, Supplemental and Reserve Rosters. Their remaining players are eligible for selection by FCC in the Expansion Draft.

The Orange & Blue will not fully know which players will be available in this draft until a player Blackout Period begins on December 9th at 1 pm.

We will label these 5 Expansion Draft opportunities as Roster Slots 7 – 12. Two additional December drafts will allow FCC to add current MLS talent to help fill the remaining eight senior slots.

2018 MLS Waiver Draft  – Wednesday, December 12th at 4 pm

The Waiver Draft consists of players who have been waived by their clubs but don’t meet the minimum years of service requirement for the Re-Entry Draft or Free Agency – mostly young players who are relatively new to MLS.

Under contract players who are selected in the Waiver Draft will be automatically added to the drafting club’s roster. Clubs that claim out-of-contract players must issue a genuine offer to the selected player. FCC will get the final selection opportunity in the Waiver Draft but are not required to make a selection.

2018 Re-Entry Draft – Stage 1, Friday, December 14th at 3 pm; Stage 2, Thursday, December 20th at 2 pm

The Orange & Blue are able to select and sign up to two players, one during Stage 1 and one in Stage 2. There is no requirement to select a player in either stage, however. The player pool will consist of players that either have not had their options picked up or players that are out of contract with their current club. Additionally, these eligible players must be:

  • at least 23 years old and have a minimum of 3 years of MLS experience (available at their current club 2019 option salary).
  • at least 25 years old with a minimum of 4 years of MLS experience (available at a minimum of their current club 2018 salary).
  • or Free Agents that choose to participate.

As the expansion team, FCC will have the 24th and final selection spot during each stage of the 2018 Re-Entry Draft.

Contingent on the player pool availability and their December draft selections, FCC will need to fill any remaining 2019 Senior Roster spots with transfers or during the upcoming MLS SuperDraft on January 11th. However, the SuperDraft is routinely used to fill Supplemental and Reserve Rosters. The Primary Transfer Window opens in February, although agreements can be negotiated earlier and finalized during the window.

Possibly you’re now understanding the complexity that each and every roster move carries going forward. It’s not necessarily a straightforward decision on whether to bring back your favorite current player or not. Each player is being evaluated and compared against the talent available in the upcoming MLS drafts and the open market. We may not hear any additional substantial player announcements until after these forthcoming December player drafts.

Remain patient fans and stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press and our Transfer News as we update you on all of FC Cincinnati’s 2019 MLS player movements.

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.

FC Cincinnati – City Council’s Warm-up

Graphic: CSDIV

Cincinnati City Council called a press conference on short notice on Friday April 6th to make an announcement about FC Cincinnati’s West End stadium pursuit. The press conference was held at the Lighthouse Worship Center on Central Avenue. Politicians, community leaders, building and trade officials, West End residents, and even the “Little Senators” were in attendance.

Council members P.G. Sittenfeld and David Mann used this morning’s press conference to outline a proposed stadium and community plan they crafted. They believe the plan has the necessary number of city council votes to pass, and that FC Cincinnati has agreed to it in principle.

P.G. shared, “We are here to share some big news and what I believe is a big break through.” He continued, “We don’t pass on opportunity, we seize opportunity. Let’s make our vibrancy brighter, let’s make our narrative stronger”. According to Sittenfeld, “After much listening and doing my homework…the question is how can we do the most good for the most people? We are forced to make choices, sometimes binary and often difficult.”

Proposed Stadium Deal Points

  • $25M+ of new money to Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS)
  • FC Cincinnati to pay full fair share of property taxes
  • $32M of new money will be spent with minority businesses, including $22M being spent with women-owned businesses
  • $15M in new, quality affordable housing by a private developer in partnership with the city (no homes will be demolished and no one displaced by the construction)
  • $100,000 annual commitment from FC Cincinnati for West End organizations and kids activities
  • $10M new Stargel  Stadium
  • Community Benefits Agreement to be negotiated that covers light, noise, litter, traffic, and safety

Sittenfeld concluded his prepared remarks with the question, “What will happen if we don’t seize on this opportunity and allow the project to go over the river?” After listing the benefits of this plan he ended with, “We are a can-do city.”

Former Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory, from a 4th generation West End family, added “this will be the largest single investment in the West End in the history of the community.”

This morning’s news does not guarantee that the stadium plan is a done deal, or that MLS will finally announce FC Cincinnati’s bid. However, it certainly does set the stage for the necessary votes by the Cincinnati Public School (CPS) board, the West End Community Council, and Cincinnati’s City Council.

After today’s warm up with some positive news on the stadium front, FC Cincinnati supporters will look to continue the momentum tomorrow in the FC Cincinnati vs. Louisville City FC match.

West End Stadium Location Takes Center Stage

The timeline and events leading up to yesterday’s FC Cincinnati West End stadium proposal, as the club reaches out to engage CPS and the local community.

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Twelve days have passed in what has already been a busy February in FC Cincinnati’s pursuit of a potential stadium location. While there’s no news yet in terms of securing an MLS spot, there is a LOT happening in the city’s West End neighborhood, which is the current focus of FC Cincinnati’s stadium negotiation efforts.

On Monday night Jeff Berding presented his vision of what a West End stadium might look like to Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) Board of Education. The details of the proposal are complex, and there’s still a lot to be negotiated, but the proposal can be summarized as follows:

FC Cincinnati is proposing a land/site swap involving the current CPS-owned Stargel Stadium, in order to build a soccer stadium in that location (and nearby plots). FCC would build a new improved Stargel Stadium in return on a different site adjacent to Taft High school. The construction of the new Stargel would be done prior to any impact on the existing Stargel stadium, ensuring no interruption in school or neighborhood activities.

In addition, FCC promised to keep Cincinnati Public Schools “whole or improved on every level” (taxes), continue community engagement to address neighborhood concerns, and enter into a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) established by the City of Cincinnati to protect the interests of residents in the neighborhood.

Monday’s meeting is the culmination of a series of recent events in the West End. Things kicked off at the end of January when FC Cincinnati sent a letter Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) asking them to engage with the club and discuss a partnership in pursuing a stadium located in the West End. A week later, FC Cincinnati secured the option to buy 60 empty lots in the neighborhood, that were acquired from the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) for residential development.

Here’s a timeline of the events that followed, with corresponing links if you want more details:

  • Jan. 31 – CPS met and discussed FC Cincinnati’s letter. They request more clarity on what is being asked of CPS in an “open and public” forum.
  • Jan. 31 – Cincinnati NAACP publishes a statement indicating that they are “monitoring the developments with serious interest.” Their statement demands transparency and community engagement.
  • Feb. 2 – A letter from CPS President Carolyn Jones requests more information and transparency from FC Cincinnati on their stadium plans.
  • Feb. 2 – Jeff Berding and Mark Mallory speak on 700 WLW, reiterating that all three sites are still in play, that Taft High School “won’t be touched”, and that Mallory’s involvement is needed “to get the correct information out” in the West End community.
  • Feb. 5 – Jeff Berding attends Cincinnati City Council Budget and Finance committee meeting. Councilman Mann recommends a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) for the new stadium. Berding states that he is targeting to know MLS’ decision by end of February and have a firm stadium plan by March if they are awarded entry.
  • Feb. 6 – The Enquirer publishes an editorial by Jeff Berding stressing that a stadium in any neighborhood must a net positive for the neighborhood and the club with make decisions with the community and city leaders where it is located.
  • Feb. 7 – Hamilton County Commissioners update the expiration date of their December resolution to pay for a $15M parking garage in support of a stadium, extending the expiration date to February 28 (it originally expired at the end of 2017).
  • Feb. 8 – West End Community Meeting is held and media reports indicate a negative neighborhood reaction to the proposed stadium. Cincinnati City Councilman Wendell Young makes statements opposing any impact on Stargell stadium and has concerns about gentrification.
  • Feb. 10Jeff Berding goes door-to-door in West End neighborhood to seek input and hear concerns of West End residents on a potential FC Cincinnati stadium.
  • Feb. 12 – A CPS Board of Education meeting is held, where Jeff Berding presents details on plans for a West End Stadium site and residents that live in CPS districts have an opportunity to speak for and against the stadium proposal.

Summary

While we don’t often wade into the waters of the politics surrounding the stadium situation (this is a soccer blog after all), we will make a few observations about recent events in the West End.

The Beginning

Monday’s proposal might feel like the conclusion of several events pointing to a West End stadium location. However, this is likely just the beginning of an arduous negotiation process. The club must see great value in the West End location because the path it needs to travel to get a deal done there will be a difficult one. Each location presents its own unique obstacles, but one could argue that the West End might be the most politically charged and financially difficult of the three.

Dynamic Situation Across Three Sites

Berding reiterated on Monday that all three stadium locations (Oakley, Newport, and the West End) are still very much in play. The Oakley traffic and environmental studies promised in December are now underway. The Newport site has made the fewest headlines, but don’t be surprised it if rises to the surface again if negotiations take a bad turn elsewhere. This is a dynamic situation, and the club has to keep all its options open as it pursues a viable situation on multiple fronts.

FCC to Go Big on Outreach and Transparency

The three points Jeff Berding made in his editorial are going to need to become the hallmarks of the club as they move forward: communication, outreach, and partnership. FCC is going to have to overcommunicate and go above and beyond with both community engagement and probably financial generosity to get a deal done, particularly in the West End. The club has taken some hits in the media for not being transparent enough. Whether you agree with that or not, expect them to now engage fully and make a big push in these respective communities to turn a plan into reality.

Update: Feb. 13  – On Tuesday, Jeff Berding presented a customized version of the West End stadium proposal to the West End Community Council. This version of the plan, which was presented with the assistance Mark Mallory, was customized and focused on the potential benefits and impact to the neighborhood. Thereafter he fielded questions and concerns from the council. No public comment was a part of the meeting.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press, where we’ll get back to talking about soccer-ball-kicking soon enough. Wednesday’s friendly with the Chicago Fire reserves was canceled, so the next time we’ll see the Orange and Blue in action is Thursday, February 22nd at Indy XI.

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Miami’s MLS Expansion Spot, in Cincinnati “Process is more involved than expected”

MLS has officially landed in Miami while FC Cincinnati continues to tackle an expansion process that’s more involved and more time-consuming than expected.

David Beckham and Don Garber officially announced the long-awaited Miami-based MLS franchise on Monday. The event was big on fanfare and short on details, but the Miami Herald reports that the franchise expects to begin play “at a temporary site” in 2020. The team name and branding were not revealed. Beckham gave a surprisingly long and somewhat a heartfelt speech which reflected the difficulties his ownership team encountered during the process. He finished with, “Miami is a city built on dreams, today you made my dreams come true…it’s a special day for all of us.”

The announcement brings to a close a four-year-long saga where Beckham and company worked to secure an ownership group and stadium site suitable for MLS. The logical question that some Cincinnati soccer fans are asking is, “Does the news in Miami hurt FC Cincinnati’s chances for MLS expansion?”

The short answer is no. MLS chased and supported a Beckham led Miami franchise for a very long time, long before FC Cincinnati was even a sparkle in Jeff Berding’s eye. This announcement should have come well before the current round of expansion. Garber has been extremely patient, and MLS believes that the Miami ownership group finally has enough sorted out to call it official. Cincinnati was never going to displace Miami, a huge media market, with a star-studded ownership group, that’s also an attractive tourism destination. The only thing Miami’s bid was ever going to impact was the timing of when FC Cincinnati enters the league, if granted a bid. Miami’s lengthy delays could still provide Cincinnati a chance for earlier (2019) entry.

Cincinnati – “Process Is More Involved Than Expected”

In Cincinnati, Jeff Berding made appearances with a few local media outlets over the past week, to talk about the shorter-lived saga that is FC Cincinnati’s MLS bid.

“We’re not quite there yet. The process is more involved than we expected. We appreciate people’s patience, . . . we hope we’re going to host a big party here sometime soon.”

A few themes repeated themselves in these interviews. Berding reiterated that they consider all three sites (Oakley, West End, and Newport) winning sites. A purchase option is signed on the Oakley site, and that was the primary site presented at the December 6th meetings with MLS in New York. However, all three sites were presented, as was FC Cincinnati’s ability to redirect efforts to any of the three sites (if local or MLS interests drove things that way). FC Cincinnati committed to performing a traffic study on the impact of building a stadium in Oakley. Berding also committed to a holding a community dialogue in any location where they try to move forward. He put a major emphasis that any stadium plan needed to be a win for the neighborhood in which it would be located. “We’re going to increase home ownership in the neighborhood, we’re not going to displace anyone”. [WCPO]

One implication of the information shared in these recent media appearances is that further clarification on the specific stadium site does not seem to be a prerequisite for winning the MLS bid. The narrative he presented is about needing to first secure the MLS franchise, then having a dialogue with the community and city leaders about the best place to locate the stadium.

It is interesting that some of the hurdles in Miami were attributed to not having the stadium site locked down. So how can Cincinnati secure a franchise with a number of questions outstanding about its own stadium proposal? No one’s really sure. Miami’s bid had more problems than just stadium details though. Those problems were resolved by revamping their ownership group and adding Jorge and Jose Mas. It appears that the local ownership piece in Miami was perhaps the biggest deficit, and with that resolved, they got the green light from MLS to move forward. And Cincinnati certainly isn’t Miami. It’s a different situation, and somewhat different criteria might be used by MLS to decide what “ready” looks like there versus here.

This brings up another point. There isn’t much point in speculating on when and how this decision will be made by MLS. But everyone’s doing it, because 1) it’s fun, and 2) there’s a dearth of information coming from the real sources. Without clear information and MLS leading the dialogue about what’s happening, people are going to speculate, and Don Garber is clearly ok with that, or he would have said more by now.

Why hasn’t he said more? There could be some simple explanations. Defining the specific criteria for acceptance suggests that MLS’ decision is an equation, and if a city’s bid plugs in the right numbers, stadium + ownership + finances + support, MLS spits out a winner. One could argue it’s not that simple. It’s a subjective decision, it’s nuanced, and ultimately it’s a judgment call for MLS to decide which city’s situation has the best chance of improving the league and improving the financial prospects of its owners. It is a business after all.

Also, there are serious financial implications for the winning (and losing) cities and the ownership groups involved. It behooves MLS not to make the exact decision-making specifics public. If they did, it locks them into what was stated and gives them less flexibility to change their minds or re-evaluate things as each city’s bid evolves. It could open them up to criticism or even legal recourse if they stated detailed specifics and then didn’t follow them “to a T”. So while it’s annoying, confusing, and frustrating to many fans and onlookers that the whole expansion situation is opaque, it seems to be so by design.

Waiting Game

So FC Cincinnati fans must wait. The good news is that there is an end in sight. Don Garber said MLS’ decision on the next expansion team will happen before the first game of the MLS season (March 3rd).  So, it’s likely that the news will come sometime in February, perhaps even early February. Moreover, preseason is kicking off for this year’s exciting and revamped USL squad. FC Cincinnati leaves for the preseason IMG tournament in Florida on Friday. Alan Koch’s new-look team will be back in action in eight short days against the New England Revolution. So there will actually be some real soccer to keep us busy while we wait. And isn’t that actually what it’s all about?

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s 2018 season.

FC Cincinnati 1 – Tampa Bay Rowdies 1: Dacres Sees Red in Comeback Draw

A controversial red card could have spoiled FC Cincinnati’s night, but they held on to split the points with the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Nippert.

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Photo courtesy of Ryan Meyer Photography

A 10 man FC Cincinnati earned a 1-1 draw against a physical Tampa Bay Rowdies side at Nippert Stadium on Wednesday evening. The match was played in front of 15,227 fans on a beautiful spring night in Cincinnati. After an astonishing seventh minute thunderbolt from Tampa Bay midfielder Marcel Schäfer, FC Cincinnati equalized from a corner kick. Kenney Walker provided the service and Harrison Delbridge out-jumped his marker to head-home his first goal of the season. The opening half ended level at 1-1.

Match Photos: FC Cincinnati 1 – Tampa Bay Rowdies 1

An evenly played second half featured equal possession and a smattering of chances for either team prior to the 75th minute. It was then that Kadeem Dacres was sent-off in questionable fashion when his high boot caught Tampa Bay forward Deshorn Brown in the abdomen. The foul appeared clumsy as Kadeem tried to reclaim the bouncing ball, but the referee judged it dangerous and ejection-worthy. FC Cincinnati shut-up shop for the final 15 minutes plus stoppage time and came out with a hard-fought 1-1 draw.

For play-by-play details of the match’s events, see the match recap on Last Word on Soccer below.

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MLS Expansion Rivals Share Spoils in Cincinnati

FC Cincinnati rises to 5th place in the Eastern Conference after the draw. There’s no rest for the weary though. Alan Koch’s side has two days to recover before they host Louisville City FC at Nippert on Saturday in the first leg of the Dirty River Derby.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of the final chapter of FC Cincinnati’s opening week of 2017.

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Sacramento Republic 2 – FC Cincinnati 2: Takeaways and Third Kit Fever

Takeaways and match photos from FC Cincinnati’s preseason stalemate in California. Harrison Delbridge was the difference maker in his return to Bonney.

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FC Cincinnati played Sacramento Republic FC to a 2-2 stalemate at Bonney Field in a preseason showdown between MLS expansion rivals. Aodhan Quinn gave the Orange & Blue the lead in the 21st minute from the penalty spot. The home side then scored two unanswered in the second half to take a lead into stoppage time. Just before the final whistle, former Republic FC defender Harrison Delbridge headed home a late equalizer.

For a full review of the match’s events, see MLS Expansion Hopefuls Rumble in California.

Photos

Takeaways

Delbo’s Return – Harrison Delbridge had quite an impact in his return to Bonney. The foul against him in the 20th minute set up FC Cincinnati’s penalty kick goal. He then salvaged the draw with his last minute header. The Australian has picked up where he left off last season when he earned USL All League First Team honors. Delbridge was part of Sacramento Republic FC’s USL Championship team in 2014. Orange & Blue Press visited Republic FC’s headquarters on Saturday and found this picture of Delbridge near the 2014 Championship trophy.

Berry Worry – Preseason is about gaining form, fitness, and figuring out who the first eleven will be. It’s also about getting to March 25th without injuries. Unfortunately, Austin Berry left the match in the 55th minute after a challenge on Republic FC forward Trevin Caesar. Caesar’s foot appeared to catch Berry in the head. Before he left the field, the medical staff also appeared to be examining him for a leg injury. Paul Nicholson and Matt Bahner can provide cover at center back, but this is an area where FC Cincinnati lacks depth.

UPDATE: Berry has an arm injury. No word yet on the severity or how long he’ll be out.

Starting Eleven – This was the last match of preseason where FC Cincinnati will face professional competition. The eleven that started and featured through 70 minutes (noting Berry’s departure) are likely very close to the eleven that will line up against the Charleston Battery in the season opener.

Defensive Troubles? – No clean sheets and nine goals conceded in four games. It’s preseason so you can’t read into the stats too much. Both goals yesterday could be categorized as defensive mistakes though. For the first, Aodhan Quinn was caught in possession deep in FC Cincinnati’s own half.  For the second, Mitch Hildebrandt couldn’t retain Williams’ shot, although it was hard and from close range. The team showed good character to equalize, but the defense will need to tighten up before the USL kickoff.

Expansion Foes – Sacramento is one of 12 cities competing with Cincinnati for an MLS expansion slot. One strength of Sacramento’s bid is an approved stadium plan that will move forward if they are granted an expansion spot. It will be built at the Railyards site shown below. It’s a large undeveloped area on the north side of downtown Sacramento. The second of the two pictures is where the stadium would stand.

Third Kit Fever – FC Cincinnati unveiled a mostly black third kit with grey sleeves for the first time on Saturday. Here’s a couple of good shots of the new look in action.

What do you think about the new third kit?  Is it a must have addition to a closet full of FC Cincinnati gear, or a fashion miss?  Let us know in the comments section.

FC Cincinnati returns home for three weeks of practice before their opening match of the USL season on March 25th. During that time they will face both UC and Xavier for their final preseason tune-ups.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s preseason.

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MLS Expansion News – Six Markets, Part Two – 2/9

News from six markets competing for an MLS expansion spot: Cincinnati, Saint Louis, San Antonio, San Diego, Tampa, and Indianapolis.

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Last week, Orange and Blue Press released an article that covered MLS expansion updates for Charlotte, Detroit, Nashville, Raleigh, Sacramento and Indianapolis. This article features updates from the remaining six markets, including Cincinnati.

The expansion landscape across twelve cities is complex, dynamic, and several markets have a reasonable chance for a successful bid. Cincinnati is covered last in order to review how news from other markets affects the Cincinnati bid.

Looking for more information on the basics of MLS expansion? Check out MLS Expansion 101.


Saint Louis

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Saint Louis, Missouri

Summary: St. Louis’ embattled stadium proposal has been stuck in government red tape for several weeks. Despite the challenges, the SC STL ownership group submitted its MLS application on January 31st. The proposal passed the full board of Alderman in early February and is on its way to an April ballot for the St. Louis public to approve.
Recent News & Resources: 

  • 1/26 – It took two votes, but the stadium proposal passed the Aldermanic Ways and Means committee 5-4 and progresses to a decision by the full board of Alderman. [St. Louis Today]
  • 1/31 – The SC STL ownership group submits their MLS application on January 31st. [St. Louis Today]
  • 2/3 – The stadium proposal passes the full board of Alderman and will go onto an April ballot as long as a circuit judge approves. [Herald Whig]
  • 2/4 – St. Louis voters may not support the stadium proposal on the April ballot. The article cites a January survey whose results suggest voters are opposed to the use of public funds to help build a stadium. [Soccer America]

Link with details of St. Louis’ TV Market, ownership group, existing team, and more.


San Antonio

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San Antonio, Texas

Summary: San Antonio’s ownership group (SSE) plays their cards extremely close to the vest, so it’s difficult to say what’s going on behind the scenes. Brian Straus released his MLS expansion profile for the city in late January, giving everyone a little peek behind the curtain. SSE submitted their MLS application on January 31st along with the other 12 markets. Today, San Antonio FC announced an affiliation agreement with NYCFC.

Recent News & Resources: 

  • 1/25 – San Antonio MLS Expansion Profile – Brian Straus [SI]
  • 1/31 – SSE submits MLS application on January 31st. [KVUE San Antonio]
  • 2/1 – Renovations to Toyota Field could cost upward of $100M, but the stadium is already built so San Antonio believes it has an advantage. [KSAT 12 San Antonio]
  • 2/2 – A local news outlet gives the San Antonio MLS bid long odds to secure a spot. [My SA]
  • 2/9 – San Antonio FC announces 2017 affiliation with New York City FC. [San Antonio FC]

Link with details of San Antonio’s TV Market, ownership group, existing team, and more.


San Diego

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San Diego, California

Summary: Don Garber visited San Diego to publicly accept the ownership group’s application aboard the USS Midway. Since the bid went public with plans on 1/23 and submitted their MLS bid on 1/30, San Diego has been relatively quiet. There is still a lot to work through on the stadium proposal, specifically regarding acquiring land and getting city / public approval for the project.
Recent News & Resources: 

  • 1/27 – San Diego’s ownership group has ties to the Sacramento Kings (former), Qualcomm, and the San Diego Padres. [Soccer Nation]
  • 1/30 – San Diego formally submits its MLS application with a ceremony including Don Garber aboard the USS Midway. [SD Union Tribune]
  • 2/6 – Acquiring the land to build the stadium could be problematic. The ownership group will likely try to avoid a public vote. [Voice of SD]

Link with details of San Diego’s TV Market, ownership group, existing team, and more.


Tampa / St. Petersburg

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St. Petersburg, Florida

Summary: Lead investor Bill Edwards made quite a spectacle when he delivered Tampa’s MLS application. Edwards, a former Tampa mayor, and a supporters group traveled to NY to drop off the application. They also sponsored an electronic #MLS2STPETE billboard in Times Square to add to the fanfare. A key vote on the stadium proposal is scheduled for May.
Recent News & Resources: 

  • 1/28 – An Orlando article explores Tampa, Miami, and Orlando and how they are at different stages of the MLS expansion lifecycle. Orlando City SC CEO calls the Tampa bid “very premature.” [Orlando Sentinel]
  • 1/30 – Bill Edwards travels to NY to deliver the MLS application in person amid fanfare. [Tampa Times]
  • 1/30 – The Tampa presentation at MLS HQ featured dancers in sequin, crates of Florida oranges, and Rowdies Pete, their pelican mascot. [Empire of Soccer]

Link with details of Tampa’s TV Market, ownership group, existing team, and more.


Phoenix

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Phoenix, Arizona

Note: Complete market details are included for Phoenix because they recently joined the expansion race.

TV Market: Nielsen DMA #12
Team: Phoenix Rising FC – USL (formerly Arizona United FC)
Venue: A proposed privately funded, climate-controlled stadium on a 45 acre site in south Scottsdale
Money: Ownership group led by Burke Bakay, (Kona Grill and Phoenix Rising FC)
Summary: Phoenix announced its bid less than a week before the application deadline. Phoenix is late to the game, but its large market size, Southwestern location, and privately funded stadium will be attractive to the MLS expansion committee. The Phoenix application was submitted on time on January 31st.
Recent News & Resources: 

Link with details of Phoenix’s TV Market, ownership group, existing team, and more.


Cincinnati

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Cincinnati, Ohio

Summary: The Cincinnati bid submitted its application on time, but true to form, released very little information about its contents. FC Cincinnati General Manager Jeff Berding stated that it “satisfied all the requirements,” and is “far stronger than people think.” The city’s USL team continues to receive exceptional support, recently surpassing the 10,000 season ticket holder threshold. The most recent news involves speculation about the location and architecture of a potential new stadium.
Recent News & Resources:

  • 1/31 – Cincinnati bid submits expansion application to MLS. [Cincinnati Business Courier]
  • 2/1 – Cincinnati MLS Expansion Profile – Brian Straus [SI]
  • 2/3 – Northern Kentucky could be a location option for the new stadium. [River City News]
  • 2/6 – Mayor doesn’t see public funds being used for a new stadium. [Enquirer]
  • 2/7 – Architect Hints at FC Cincinnati Stadium Design [Cincinnati Business Courier]
  • 2/8 – FC Cincinnati passes 10,000 in season ticket sales for 2017 season. [Enquirer]

Link with details of Cincinnati’s TV Market, ownership group, existing team, and more.


How does news from other markets affect the Cincinnati bid?

Cincinnati’s application is in and all 12 markets are moving on to the interview process. MLS’ plan was to announce two of the four winning bids by the third fiscal quarter of this year. However, MLS President Mark Abbot recently stated that it could take until the end of the year to make those selections.

As of early February, here’s how the picture has changed.

Cincinnati started its expansion quest with a lot of competition, and now there’s even more. Phoenix is a western market and is competing more directly with other regional markets rather than Cincinnati. While not a favorite for the top four, Phoenix’s market size and southwestern geography make it one to watch as the year plays out. As a mid-sized midwestern market, Indianapolis is more directly competing with the Queen City. Indy Eleven is a good organization and has compelling fan support, but the ownership groups, TV markets, and stadium plans of St. Louis and Detroit present bigger threats. So yes, there are two more markets, but the strongest bids were probably already in play.

Several strong markets have cleared significant obstacles recently. Saint Louis, Detroit, and Charlotte have all recently made progress on bids that rely on public/private funding. St. Louis’ stadium proposal is on to an April vote. Detroit is close to securing the Wayne county jail site for their stadium complex. Sacramento recently avoided an ownership coup that would have changed the expansion race in the west. So far, the big bids are getting by, if just barely. It certainly would help Cincinnati’s cause of one or two strong markets fell by the wayside.

It’s difficult to handicap the Cincinnati bid with the level of confidentiality around the application. That’s also clearly how the organization wants it. The only bid of the 12 that is more tight-lipped is San Antonio. Many Cincinnati fans have a healthy sense of belief in the team’s management and ownership after year one. I believe Jeff Berding when he says the bid is “far stronger than people think.” The city’s fan support can be a differentiator, but only if every other facet of the bid is spot on. #MLS2Cincy supporters will have to lean on that belief as the year plays out, because they’re not likely to get much more compelling information to chew on.

Only the MLS expansion committee has anything close to the full set of facts. So the rest of us will argue, worry, cringe, and celebrate as the race unfolds and the lens focuses ever so slowly on four winning markets.

Do you know of recent news or key facts about these MLS expansion contenders not mentioned above?  Let us know in the comments section.

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MLS Expansion News – Six Markets – 2/4

News from six markets competing with FC Cincinnati for an MLS expansion bid: Charlotte, Detroit, Nashville, NC Triangle, Sacramento, and Indianapolis.

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This article from Orange and Blue Press continues a series of articles related to MLS expansion news. These articles fall under the what have you done for me lately theme, and explore the most recent events in each city’s campaign to gain entry into MLS.

Since the first series of articles was released, two new markets threw their hat into the ring – Phoenix and Indianapolis. The expansion landscape across twelve cities is complex, dynamic, and several markets have a reasonable chance for a successful bid. Six of the twelve expansion markets are covered in this article. A separate article will follow in close proximity and cover the remaining six. Cincinnati will be covered last in order to review how news from other markets affects the Cincinnati bid.

If you’re looking for the basics of the current MLS expansion situation, see our MLS Expansion 101 article.


Charlotte

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Charlotte, North Carolina

Summary: Last week Mecklenburg County approved $43M in financing for the stadium renovation. However, the city of Charlotte cancelled the Friday meeting scheduled to review and potentially approve another $43M share from the city. Marcus Smith still submitted the MLS application on 1/31 without the city’s agreement to help fund the stadium. The city can still join the effort at a later date if they so choose.
News & Resources: 

  • 1/20 – Financial details of Charlotte’s stadium proposal are released. A key stadium funding vote is scheduled for 1/26. [Charlotte Business Journal]
  • 1/26 – Mecklenburg County approves plan to renovate Memorial stadium. The Charlotte City Council was scheduled to vote on the proposal on 1/27, but cancelled the meeting. They want more time to review and discuss the details of the proposal. [QC Football Chronicle]
  • 1/30 – Charlotte’s bid will move forward without city funding. The City of Charlotte is taking more time to consider whether to contribute tourism tax dollars to the cause. [Charlotte Post]
  • 1/31 – Charlotte submits its bid for MLS expansion despite lack of funding from the city. [Charlotte Business Journal]
  • 2/2 – Charlotte’s application is heavy on NASCAR, light on soccer according to the Charlotte Observer. The article maintains that the city is unlikely to chip in for the stadium. [Charlotte Observer]

Link with details of Charlotte’s TV Market, ownership group, existing team, and more.


Detroit

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Detroit, Michigan

Summary: Wayne County announces that it will move forward with the county’s stalled jail project unless an acceptable proposal for the property is submitted by February 10. This site has been the target location for the Detroit MLS stadium. The ownership team of Gilbert & Gores plans to submit a proposal to acquire that site before the February deadline. The Detroit bid submitted its application on 1/31.
News & Resources: 

  • 1/28 –  Detroit – The Detroit MLS bid’s target stadium location is no longer an option, unless a deal can be rescued by 2/10. [CBS Detroit]
  • 1/30 –  Gilbert & Gores will a submit proposal to redevelop the jail site before the 2/10 county deadline. [Crain’s]
  • 1/31 – Detroit submits its bid for MLS expansion. This thorough article includes a stadium plan and quotes from Alexi Lalas on the prospect of MLS in his hometown.  [Crain’s]

Link with details of Detroit’s TV Market, ownership group, existing team, and more.


Nashville 

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Nashville, TN

Summary: Nashville’s mayor recently joined the effort to bring MLS to town and affirmed that the Fairgrounds location is the best possible stadium site. Investors are targeting to have details of a public/private funding proposal in place by June. The Nashville group submitted their MLS application on January 31st.
News & Resources: 

  • 1/18 – Nashville MLS Expansion Profile – Brian Straus [SI]
  • 1/26 – Mayor Megan Barry announces support for the bid and involvement in the application process. She emphasizes that the Fairgrounds is the most suitable location for a new stadium. [Fox 17 Nashville]
  • 1/30 – Mayor Barry makes a public appearance to support the MLS bid. She sets a June timeframe to finalize a funding proposal for a stadium at the Fairgrounds location. [Tennessean]
  • 1/31 – Nashville submits its MLS application. The article includes a video submitted with the application. [WSMV 4 Nashville]
  • 2/1 – Lead investor Ingram meets with MLS executives for the first time in person on the application due date. [Tennessean]

Link with details of Nashville’s TV Market, ownership group, existing team, and more.


North Carolina Triangle (Raleigh/Durham/Cary)

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Raleigh, North Carolina

Summary: Charlotte isn’t the only show in North Carolina, and Steve Malik’s aggressive bid boasts 100% private funding. Brian Straus recently released his MLS expansion profile for the Triangle which is gospel on the topic. Malik submitted the Triangle’s MLS application on January 31st.
News & Resources: 

  • 1/27 – MLS expansion profile for Raleigh / Durham is released by Brian Straus. [SI]
  • 1/31 – Triangle ownership group, led by Steve Malik submits their MLS application. The article discusses the stadium plan which features a translucent roof. [News & Observer]

Link with details of the Triangle’s TV Market, ownership group, existing team, and more.


Sacramento

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Sacramento, California

Summary: Meg Whitman, HP CEO and Ebay founder, joins the Sacramento ownership group. Reports surfaced late on January 31st that the city’s existing USL team, Sacramento Republic FC, was left out of the MLS application submitted by Kevin Nagle. The outcry over the last minute omission is created a PR firestorm that looked bad for this city’s bid. MLS deputy commissioner Mark Abbott tried to downplay the severity of the situation and said that Nagle and Republic FC will continue to work toward an agreement. On 2/4, the parties announced an agreement whereby the Republic FC brand name will be used if the MLS bid is successful.
News & Resources: 

  • 1/27 – A brief articles discusses worries that San Diego’s MLS bid could leave Sacramento out of the picture. [ABC10 Sacramento]
  • 1/30 – Sacramento will submit its bid tomorrow and the organization believes they have an advantage based on the advanced state of their stadium plan. [Sacramento Business Journal]
  • 2/1 – Sacramento Republic FC issues a statement regarding the MLS application saying that if it was submitted without the inclusion of Republic FC, it was done “in violation of our agreements and without our authorization.”  [Sacramento Bee]
  • 2/1 – MLS deputy commissioner Mark Abbot downplays the conflict between Nagle and Republic FC. He says the league will allow discussions to continue and the two groups will attempt to resolve undisclosed “issues.” [Sacramento Business Journal]
  • 2/1 – Brian Straus gives his take on Sacramento’s ownership power struggle, including the Sacramento Mayor getting involved to help resolve the conflict. [SI]
  • 2/4 – With the help of Mayor Steinberg, Nagle and Smith reach a deal of “undisclosed” terms allowing the MLS bid to use the Sacramento Republic FC brand. [Sacramento Bee]

Link with details of the Sacramento’s TV Market, ownership group, existing team, and more.


Indianapolis

Note: Complete market details are included for Indianapolis in this article because they recently joined the expansion race.

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Indianapolis, Indiana

TV Market: Nielsen DMA #27
Existing Team: Indy Eleven – NASL
Venue: A proposed stadium with a cost of “over $100M” in downtown Indianapolis adjacent to Lucas Oil Stadium (NFL) funded with a private/public partnership
Money: Investment group led by Ersal Ozdemir (Indy Eleven and Keystone Realty Group)
Summary: Indianapolis joined the party last, announcing their entry on January 30th, one day before the application deadline. Ozdemir submitted the application on time, and they launched a website to promote the stadium in conjunction with the application. Website
Recent News & Resources: 

  • 1/30 – Brian Straus reports Indianapolis’ MLS bid. [SI]
  • 1/31 –Ozdemir submits the Indianapolis MLS application. The article discusses the proposed funding of the stadium and Indy Eleven’s previous challenges with public / private funding for the NASL team’s stadium. [Indy Star]
  • 2/3 – An article from the Business Journal provides more detail on the investment group. It discusses the bid’s urgency due to the rising costs of MLS and the league getting close to its maximum size. [Indianapolis Business Journal]

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for the second set of six markets which will include Cincinnati.

UPDATE: The next article in this series has been release covering the remaining six markets.

Do you know of recent news or key facts about these MLS expansion contenders not mentioned above?  Let us know in the comments section.

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MLS Expansion News – Five Markets, Part Two

MLS expansion news from five more markets including recent updates from Cincinnati, Saint Louis, San Antonio, San Diego and Tampa / St. Petersburg.

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On Sunday, Orange and Blue Press released an article that covered MLS expansion updates for Charlotte, Detroit, Nashville, Raleigh, and Sacramento. This article will cover updates from the remaining five expansion markets, including Cincinnati.

Looking for more information on the basics of MLS expansion? Check out MLS Expansion 101.

For each market, the TV market size, existing team, venue, and investment group are listed along with a summary of recent developments. This information is followed by links to relevant news articles and resources. It’s important to note that the existing team in a market does not necessarily become the MLS team if a bid is granted, particularly if the team’s ownership is not part of the MLS bid.


Saint Louis

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Saint Louis, Missouri

TV Market: Nielsen DMA #21*
Team: Saint Louis FC – USL
Venue: A proposed $200M 20,000 seat stadium relying partially on public funds to be built near historic Union Station
Money: The SC STL investment group led by Paul Edgerley (Bain Capitol) and Jim Kavanaugh (Worldwide Technology / Saint Louis FC)
Summary: St. Louis’ bid has been regarded as an expansion frontrunner for some time, but has run into problems recently with a stadium proposal that relies partially on public funding.
Recent News & Resources: 

  • 11/18 – St. Louis stadium proposal is revealed. [Fox 2]
  • 12/19 – Missouri’s governor elect Greitens is critical of the stadium proposal calling the public funding requested “welfare for millionaires.” [SI]
  • 12/23 – Saint Louis MLS Expansion Profile – Brian Straus [SI]
  • 1/5 – Counterpoint to “welfare for millionaires” [St. Louis Today]
  • 1/10 – Saint Louis Stadium public funding bill is thought to be dead [St. Louis Today]
  • 1/18 – Revived stadium bill calls for less tax money but more state-granted land. The decision on whether to put on April ballot has been postponed. [KSDK]

San Antonio

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San Antonio, Texas

TV Market: Nielsen DMA #31*
Team: San Antonio FC – USL
Venue: Toyota Field would be expanded to at least 18,000 seats, possibly larger (plans not yet public). The stadium was originally built for NASL’s San Antonio Scorpions (dissolved), and is now owned by the city of San Antonio. Expansion would be funded publicly by San Antonio and Bexar County.
Money: SSE (Spurs Sports & Entertainment), ownership group of the San Antonio Spurs
Summary: If the stadium expansion funding is approved, this bid has several pieces in place including a top notch ownership group and a USL team with solid first year fan support. SSE plays their cards extremely close to the vest, so it’s difficult to say what’s going on behind the scenes. The vote to approve funding for stadium expansion will not occur until November at the earliest. It’s difficult to see how that fits with MLS’ decision time frame, especially for expansion spots 25 and 26. Spots 27 or 28 are more likely targets for this bid.

Recent News & Resources: 

  • 10/3 – San Antonio FC’s successful first season in USL. [Soccer Stadium Digest]
  • 12/15 – Bexar County is exploring funding for Toyota Stadium expansion. [Business Journal]
  • 1/15 – Report that discusses the implications of the San Diego Chargers move on San Antonio and questions the price tag of public funding for the stadium expansion. [Rivard]

San Diego

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San Diego, California

TV Market: Nielsen DMA #28*
Team: Albion Pros – NPSL – Both USL and NASL are rapidly trying to stand up franchises in SD.
Venue: A proposed $200M stadium that could be shared with San Diego State University at the site of the existing Qualcomm Stadium
Money: Investment group led by Mike Stone (FS Investors) and Steve Altman (formerly Qualcomm)
Summary: Although the San Diego bid is behind others in terms of organization, the departure of the Chargers leaves a sports void that some believe is a game changer for the expansion picture in the West. Today the investment group announced their plans, a stadium rendering, and an aggressive timeline.
Recent News & Resources: 

  • 1/6 – USL and NASL rumored to be starting franchises in San Diego [Soccer Nation]
  • 1/12 – San Diego Chargers leave for Los Angles, leaving void in San Diego sports market. [S.D. Union Tribune]
  • 1/13 – Garber speaks to San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer about expansion after departure of the Chargers [MLS]
  • 1/15 – Not everyone in San Diego wants MLS…”soccer is never, ever going to be the answer. It’s soccer.” [S.D. Union Tribune]
  • 1/23 – The ownership group (previously unnamed) was confirmed and they report plans to build a privately funded $1B multi-use complex, with a $200M stadium that an MLS team could share with San Diego State University.  [San Diego Tribune]
  • 1/23 – The investors would purchase the land at market value from the city and the city would agree to share maintenance costs. An urgent adoption of the plan by the city is requested by January 31st. [NBC7 SD]

Tampa / St. Petersburg

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St. Petersburg, Florida

TV Market: Nielsen DMA #11*
Team: Tampa Bay Rowdies – NASL
Venue: The Rowdies current venue, publicly owned Al Lang stadium, would be expanded from 7,800 to 18,000 seats and renovated with private funds. The city would then pay infrastructure costs and continue to lease the waterfront stadium to the Rowdies.
Money: Investment group led by Bill Edwards (Tampa Bay Rowdies owner, former real estate executive)
Summary: Tampa’s bid is strong because they are the largest TV market of the ten and their stadium plan is simple relative to other bids. The Tampa City Council will vote on the plan on May 2.
Recent News & Resources: 

  • 12/6 – Tampa / St. Pete Announces MLS bid and stadium expansion plans [WFLA]
  • 1/4 – Tampa Bay City Council Meets to discuss stadium renovation proposal. [Tampa Bay Times]
  • 1/4 – Cincinnati Enquirer’s Pat Brennan explores Tampa Bay’s Al Lang stadium and bid for MLS expansion, labeling them “silent assasins.” [Cincinnati Enquirer]
  • 1/9 – Tampa Bay / St. Pete MLS Expansion Profile – Brian Straus [SI]
  • 1/10 – St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce is creating a special council to promote the Tampa bid. [Tampa Business Journal]

Cincinnati

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Cincinnati, Ohio

TV Market: Nielsen DMA #36*
Team: FC Cincinnati – USL
Venue: Currently sharing the 35,000 seat Nippert Stadium with the University of Cincinnati, but are looking to secure a site for a soccer specific stadium
Money: Investment group led by Carl Lindner III (Great American Insurance)
Summary: Garber’s visit in late November bolstered local hopes for an MLS future. Cincinnati’s bid has been quiet relative to many since the December MLS announcement though. Ownership and management are believed to be working hard behind the scenes on a privately funded stadium plan, but details are sparse.
Recent News & Resources:

  • 11/29 – Don Garber visits Cincinnati for Town Hall [O&B Press]
  • 12/15 – FC Cincinnati GM Berding says team is looking for 20 acre stadium site between Ohio river and University of Cincinnati [Cincinnati Enquirer]
  • 12/23 – Columbus article sites Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt’s possible reluctance (in July) over competing with another Ohio team. Precourt is one of a five member MLS expansion decision committee. [Columbus Dispatch]
  • 1/19 – Brief update on MLS expansion from FC Cincinnati GM Jeff Berding (VIDEO) –  [Local 12]

Summary

Cincinnati’s bid continues to be strong. A convincing plan for a privately-funded soccer specific stadium is the missing piece of the puzzle. That plan, combined with the current ownership, management, team, and fan support would give the plan credentials to compete with the best bids in the nation.

A few things become clear when looking at expansion updates from other markets.

First, the competition is strong and there is a lot of it. As Alexi Lalas stated in an Enquirer interview, “this is a gold rush”, with many of the nation’s wealthiest businessmen trying to stake a claim. Almost every bid has a billionaire level ownership group with professional sports expertise on staff. Each bid is looking for areas where it can differentiate itself.

Second, getting a stadium deal done is difficult and time consuming, especially if you are looking for help from the local public. The red tape and decision timeframes involved with public funding could be the demise of some of these bids.

Finally, the landscape of the expansion race can change very quickly. The Chargers left San Diego in early January, and overnight that market became dramatically more attractive. San Diego is the MLS expansion darling this week. Who will be next?

Expansion applications for all ten markets are due on January 31st. A decision on who gets the next two expansion slots is expected in the third fiscal quarter of 2017. A lot can change between now and then. Buckle up, it’s going to be a long and bumpy ride.

*NOTE: Nielsen DMAs are referenced in this article for TV market size information. DMAs seem most relevant to television advertising, but which market size ranking to use is debatable. Some argue that these markets could be combined with other nearby markets to create a larger market (i.e.: Cincinnati/Dayton). Because DMA’s combine surrounding areas already and there is no clear evidence that MLS is evaluating any markets as combined, this series of articles will not do so.

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