FC Cincinnati president talks MLS ambitions, turns to Orlando City SC as model for success

FC Cincinnati set to announce 2016 USL expansion

In addition to incoming clubs in Atlanta, LA, Minnesota and Miami, Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber has mentioned St. Louis, Sacramento, San Antonio, Detroit and San Diego as potential sites for future MLS expansion.

If FC Cincinnati have their way, they’ll soon be in that mix, too.

The expansion club is set to begin play in USL this year, and is already talking about their eventual desire to make a move to MLS.

They seem to be serious. The club is owned by longtime Cincinnati Reds owner Carl Lindner III and features backing from some high-powered Cincinnati business executives. They’ve hired American soccer legend John Harkes as their first head coach, and their roster is rife with former MLS players.

Unlike some other USL clubs that play in suburban areas, FC Cincinnati are focused on building in the city’s urban core, having agreed to a partnership with the University of Cincinnati to play in the school’s recently renovated football facility, Nippert Stadium. They’re hoping to average around 10,000 fans per game at the downtown stadium.

Club president Jeff Berding outlined a bit of his vision for pushing FC Cincinnati into MLS in a recent interview on SoapboxMedia.com, saying that he’s aiming to model the club after a team that knows a thing or two about successfully making the jump from USL to MLS: Orlando City SC.

“They were a successful team from the start, winning the USL championship in their first year,” Berding said when asked about Orlando. “Fans more easily support winning teams, so they led the league at the time in attendance, which demonstrated strong community support for soccer."

“We’d love the opportunity to someday be invited into the MLS as the top league,” he continued. “We need to have strong attendance at our games, and if we get to 10,000 per game that will send a strong message. The MLS commissioner has stated that the MLS wants to continue to expand, and we believe Cincinnati is a great market and that we have every opportunity to be successful.”