Best Of 2019

Best Major-League Sports Newbies: FC Cincinnati

After months of waiting, political wrangling, angst over the location of a stadium that wasn’t for sure going to happen and a few false starts, the news came last year on May 29, when Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber stood with FC Cincinnati leadership and Mayor John Cranley in the cavernous Over-the-Rhine taproom of Rhinegeist, officially welcoming the team into the MLS. FCC beat out larger cities for the distinction, in large part due to its rabid fan base (and their record-breaking appetite for tickets). The fevered, overjoyed atmosphere in Rhinegeist that day belied the long, arduous process that led up to that moment, including a tumultuous debate about where the team’s stadium should go. Would it be Oakley? The West End? Would FC Cincinnati betray its name and go to a location in Newport? In the end, however, the team, in line with preferences of the league, chose a spot near the urban core — just a block from bustling OTR and right where Cincinnati Public Schools’ Stargel Stadium resided. On the day FCC’s major league hopes were confirmed, Garber revealed that FC Cincinnati’s chosen location for their coming stadium in the West End was the league’s favorite site. “Many years from now, after your club has been launched and playing many years, after many thrills and victories and agonies and defeats, you’re going to remember this day as a truly historic event for the Queen City,” he said. “You should be incredibly proud of your meteoric rise as one of our continent’s major soccer cities.” The announcement marked a high point in the team’s breakneck three-year rise. After playing in the United Soccer League since the team’s founding, FC Cincinnati won one of four expansion franchises from among a dozen cities vying for a spot in MLS. Cincinnati beat out Detroit and Sacramento for its spot. The team began MLS play this March, and will get a new, MLS-approved stadium in two years. There were plenty of complications along the way, of course: negotiations with CPS. Negotiations with Cincinnati City Council. A decisive “no” vote from the West End’s Community Council, followed by efforts from the council’s executive board to put a deal back together, leading to the eventual signing of a community benefits agreement between the team and a few neighborhood representatives. The stadium’s long-term impact has yet to reveal itself, but as hundreds of shovels dug into the ground during a December groundbreaking ceremony, this much was clear: Major League Soccer is coming to Cincinnati this year, and in 2021, a brand-new soccer facility will stand in one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods. FC Cincinnati,