FC Cincinnati: 'We think we've made it easy for MLS'

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - FC Cincinnati fans are anxiously awaiting an announcement from Major League Soccer about which teams will win expansion bids.

MLS Board of Governors was scheduled to meet and vote on Thursday, though FC Cincinnati has been given no exact time when a public announcement may come on what cities have been gr anted a 2020 expansion.

"We feel good about everything that's happened over the last two years," said FC Cincinnati President and General Manager Jeff Berding. "We've done our part. They outlined the criteria for expansion. We've checked every box, but it's their decision. I've not asked how the announcement will be made, when or where. That part is not in my control."

FC Cincinnati has already surpassed 15,000 season ticket holders for the 2018 season. In just two seasons as a franchise, the club is bringing in more fans a game than several MLS cities.

"I think it's a really big deal," Berding said, of the fans and their impact on the upcoming decision. "I think a lot of the MLS teams would love to have what we have here in Cincinnati. The fact that we've created this soccer culture here in the Midwest, I think, is enormously exciting and shows the future of soccer in this country. That piece is really easy to sell."

FC Cincinnati has a leg up on Sacramento, Nashville, and Detroit in a proven model with a proven fan base that works. The vote will come down to MLS owners and the Board of Governors deciding which city or cities are most deserving.

FCC is confident about the relationships they've already built in this process.

"You want partners that you like and you can trust," Berding said. "(Club owner and CEO) Carl Lindner III had some pre-existing relationships (with MLS owners). There are some Major League Baseball and NFL people involved that I've known. (Cintas CEO) Scott Farmer, in our group, has some relationships as well. That certainly helps."

This is not a guessing game for FC Cincinnati -- it's a waiting game as the league meets and votes on who will get in. They don't know how it will play out, but they do know it would be hard for MLS to turn them down.

"We are laser-focused on that winning this bid," Berding said. "We've gotten it to the point where we think we've made it really easy for MLS to pick us. This is a major league sports town. We're going to show it's a Major League Soccer town. We think we have a great shot."

MLS released this statement Thursday:

"Today, Major League Soccer's Board of Governors had a productive discussion about the bids from ownership groups representing Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville and Sacramento to become the next MLS expansion clubs. League officials and the MLS Expansion Committee will continue to work with the four finalists and plan to have more details shortly."

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