Columbus Crew take Hell is Real over FC Cincinnati, will host MLS Cup


The Columbus Crew have won a Hell is Real rivalry match for the ages, earning the right to host MLS Cup presented by Audi on Dec. 9 after securing a 3-2 comeback victory (extra time) at FC Cincinnati in Saturday's Eastern Conference Final.

Columbus will welcome defending champions and Western Conference winners LAFC after they beat Houston Dynamo FC, 2-0, at home. The matchup will mark the fourth MLS Cup appearance in club history, having lifted the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy in both 2008 and 2020.

The Crew’s apex moment arrived in the 115th minute, stunning the TQL Stadium crowd when Christian Ramirez slammed home Cucho Hernández’s cushioned header. That moment seemed inevitable after second-half substitutes Ramirez and Julian Gressel flipped the script, factoring into an Alvas Powell own goal (75’) and Diego Rossi (86’) equalizer that forced extra time.

The first half belonged to Cincinnati, as Brandon Vazquez (14') and Luciano Acosta (45+3') created a 2-0 lead for the hosts. But the Supporters’ Shield champions couldn’t hold on and keep alive dreams of completing the ninth Shield-Cup double in MLS history, losing in heartbreaking fashion to their arch-rival.


  • 14' - CIN - Brandon Vazquez | WATCH
  • 45+3' - CIN - Luciano Acosta | WATCH
  • 75' - CLB - Alvas Powell (OG) | WATCH
  • 86' - CLB - Diego Rossi | WATCH
  • 115' - CLB - Christian Ramirez | WATCH

Three Things

  • THE BIG PICTURE: Columbus went out last winter and hired head coach Wilfried Nancy away from CF Montréal. Now they're on the doorstep of a second MLS Cup title in four years, weathering the midsummer exit of one star (Lucas Zelarayán) as another (Cucho) achieved Best XI presented by Continental Tire honors. Columbus will long have Hell is Real bragging rights over Cincy, too. They've denied Pat Noonan's team another trophy and ended Acosta's Landon Donovan MLS MVP-winning season. 
  • MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Superman to the rescue. Ramirez's 115th-minute strike is etched in Crew history.
  • MAN OF THE MATCH: The Crew's attack runs through Cucho. He assisted their decisive goal and attempted 12 shots, tying an MLS Cup Playoffs record.

Next Up

  • CIN: End of season
  • CLB: Saturday, Dec. 9 vs. LAFC | 4 pm ET (Apple TV - Free; FOX, FOX Deportes; TSN/RDS) | MLS Cup presented by Audi