Soccer is back, baby, and fans soon will be crowding into TQL Stadium to cheer for FC Cincinnati as the team eyes another quality season and playoff run. Here's what to know about following the action both inside and outside the stadium this season.
The season aheadFor FC Cincinnati, the 2022 season was full of firsts. Now the team is preparing for yet another one to kick off 2023.
For the first time ever, FC Cincinnati will stage its season opener at home on the first day the Major League Soccer season starts on Feb. 25. The schedule begins with a match welcoming the Houston Dynamo FC.
During a Feb. 23 practice session and media preview at the stadium (practices typically are held at Mercy Health Training Center in Milford), FC Cincinnati players showed off their moves while mayor Aftab Pureval, FC Cincy controlling owner Carl Lindner III and co-CEO Jeff Berding looked on. Speaking to the players, Berding noted that it was the team's first visit from a mayor.
"FC Cincinnati makes this city a great place to live. You – the excitement that you guys create – makes this a great, exciting, fun town," Berding said. "He [Pureval] wanted to come out today. He has our backs."
With an FC Cincinnati scarf draped around his neck, Pureval had one big message for the team: beat intrastate the Columbus Crew. "Hell Is Real" is back on May 20, with the Crew visiting Cincinnati for the first dust-up among the Ohio teams. FC Cincinnati then will head to Columbus on Aug. 20 to finish the job.
Throughout the 2023 season, the team will be looking to build on the momentum developed last year, when FC Cincinnati had its first-ever MLS Cup postseason berth, its first postseason win against a higher seed and a club record for consecutive scoring games. The 2022 season also marked the first time Cincinnati, now led by head coach Pat Noonan, did not finish in last place in the Eastern Conference, ending up at No. 5.
Things will look different if FC Cincinnati makes the playoffs again this season. MLS recently announced a new expanded playoff format, adding several games and rounds likely in an effort to build fan interest and a broader subscriber base for broadcaster Apple TV. Nine teams in both the Eastern and Western conferences now will see playoff action, the most of any non-special season in MLS history (there were 10 teams per conference in 2020, a season shortened and altered due to the COVID-19 pandemic). Eighteen teams in all will compete in the playoffs.
The previous playoff system – the one that FC Cincinnati had played under in 2022 – had been single-elimination only.
FC Cincinnati will be bringing back its core, with attacking midfielder Luciano Acosta and forward Brandon Vazquez leading the way. The duo was included in Major League Soccer’s 2022 Best Xi selections, marking the first time that FC Cincy players were celebrated among the top 11 players in the MLS. Acosta tallied 10 goals and an MLS-leading 19 assists for the regular season. Cincinnati's captain tied for third in the league for goal contributions – 29, a career high – and also led the club in game-winning assists with five. Vazquez notched 18 goals on the season, a personal career high. He led the league in open-play goals (16) tied for the most header goals (six) and set FC Cincinnati records for goals across all competitions, shots and shots on goal while becoming the first Cincinnati player to score multiple goals in consecutive games. Together, Acosta and Vazquez became the first pair of teammates with at least 25 goal contributions in a single season since 2018. Both were selected for the MLS All-Star Game during the summer.
Tickets to FC Cincinnati matches are available online.
The new kitThe Orange and Blue will take on the Houston Dynamo FC at TQL Stadium while debuting the team's new "river kit." The Ohio River takes center stage in FC Cincinnati's latest uni, featuring watery imagery and local landmarks. The river is "a symbol of power, evolution and the ever-changing landscape of the dynamic Queen City. It represents the literal and philosophical movement of Cincinnati," FC Cincinnati officials said.
The river kit and orange Juncta Juvant kit, which was introduced in 2022, will be used throughout 2023. See photos of the river kit.
Fan interactionFC Cincinnati fans can celebrate before the home opener with a free event at Washington Park in Over-the-Rhine. The fun begins at 4:30 p.m. Feb. 25 and will feature live music from Naked Karate Girls, a Photo photobooth, inflatables, face painting, foosball, cookies and more. Some FC Cincy players also will be on hand for autographs until 6:30 p.m., when supporters will march together to TQL Stadium.
TQL Stadium gates will open at 6 p.m. Feb. 25. A pre-match happy hour will feature $2 of all alcohol at the Coors Light Corner and the Heineken bar behind the Bailey.
Following the actionFans can watch the game from home through the MLS Season Pass on Apple TV, while radio listeners can tune the dial to FOX Sports 1360-AM in Cincinnati. Broadcast partners are listed for each match on FC Cincinnati's schedule.
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