Cincinnati set to welcome Commissioner Don Garber in push for MLS expansion

FC Cincinnati supporters - behind the goal on a PK

FC Cincinnati got the attention of MLS by drawing record crowds during their first year in USL.

On Tuesday, they’ll get a face-to-face visit with MLS Commissioner Don Garber, too.

Garber is scheduled to tour the city with Cincinnati mayor John Cranley and club officials, check out their Nippert Stadium home, meet with civic and business leaders and participate in a town hall meeting with fans at Woodward Theater. The latter event – free and open to the general public (4-5:30 pm local time) – will be emceed by ESPN soccer analyst Taylor Twellman.

“Cincinnati is a city on the rise and so is soccer,” FC Cincinnati general manager Jeff Berding told The Cincinnati Enquirer. “We’ve created an environment for a professional soccer team to be successful.”

FC Cincinnati finished their inaugural season in third place in the USL Eastern Conference with a 16-6-8 record and were eliminated from the playoffs in the first round with a 2-1 loss to the Charleston Battery on Oct. 2. But 30,187 fans showed up to see that game, setting a new USL playoff record by nearly 10,000 people.

The club also smashed the USL’s single-season attendance record, totaling 259,437 spectators and averaging 17,296 fans per game. And they set the regular-season, single-game attendance record several times throughout the year, capped by playing in front of 24,376 fans on Sept. 17 — a 1-0 win over Orlando City B.

On the heels of those staggering attendance numbers, Cincinnati are now in the expansion conversation.

After the upcoming additions of Atlanta United FC and Minnesota United FC in 2017, Los Angeles Football Club in 2018 and potentially a Miami side led by a David Beckham-led prospective ownership group, MLS has announced that it will be adding four more teams to take the league to 28 clubs. Cities like Sacramento, St. Louis, Detroit, San Antonio and San Diego have been mentioned among other potential candidates.

“Certainly, we are working with the city to show Don Garber that Cincinnati is an attractive city for Major League Soccer,” Berding told Ohio newspaper Journal-News. “We have had several business working with us to display the FCC brand or colors in some fashion on that day and the days leading up to the visit.”