It's official: FC Cincinnati submits application for MLS expansion franchise

Updated: Jan. 31, 2017 at 12:19 PM EST
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CINCINNATI (FOX19) - FC Cincinnati officially submitted their application Tuesday for Cincinnati to join Major League Soccer as an expansion team.

Cincinnati is one of a dozen cities pursuing one of the four MLS expansion openings.

The league, which has 24 franchises, plans to add two teams for 2020 and two more for 2022.

Other cities expected to submit bids are Detroit; Indianapolis; Sacramento, CA; St. Louis; San Diego; San Antonio; Charlotte, N.C.; Raleigh-Durham, N.C; Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla.; Nashville, Tenn., and Phoenix.

The league is seeking a record $150-million expansion fee for the 2020 teams.

Applicants must submit documentation that focuses on the following three areas:

  1. Ownership – Structure and financial informations;
  2. Stadium – details on proposed site, financing, approvals and support;
  3. Financial Projections, Corporate Support and Soccer Support – a business plan, projections and commitment letters for naming rights and a jersey-front sponsor, along with an overview of support from the soccer community.

The league will consider these key aspects when selecting a candidate.

The two teams playing in 2020 will be announced during the second or third quarter of 2017. Teams hoping to play in 2022 will be announced at a later date.

In November, MLS Commissioner Don Garber visited Cincinnati to learn more about what the Queen City had to offer.

"I'm very impressed with what's happening here. Cincinnati deserves an MLS team," Garber said, to a packed Woodward Theater.

In their inaugural season with in the United Soccer League, FC Cincinnati smashed the USL's single-season attendance record, totaling 259,437 spectators and averaging 17,296 fans per game. They set the regular-season, single-game attendance record several times throughout the year, capped by playing in front of 24,376 fans on Sept. 17 — a 1-0 win over Orlando City B.

"We wanted to put Cincinnati on the soccer map for our country, and even internationally and I think we achieved that," said FCC President and General Manager, Jeff Berding

FC Cincinnati finished the season in third place in the USL Eastern Conference with a 16-6-8 record and were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. But 30,187 fans showed up to see that game, setting a new USL playoff record by nearly 10,000 people.

One of the things that could hinder FC Cincinnati being a MLS expansion contender is a team-owned stadium. They currently are playing at Nipper Stadium.

Nippert Stadium is currently undergoing renovations to change the playing field for FC Cincinnati.

The project, which is expected to be completed in March 2017, will move the existing field wall back to increase the available space on the football sidelines, create a safety buffer in the south end zone corners and expand the soccer playing surface to FIFA regulation size.

The creation of additional space in the south end zone for the soccer game field will allow for a run-off area between the corner of the football end zone and the stadium wall, solving a significant player-safety issue.

The $2-million plus, FC Cincinnati funded project will also widen the game field to meet the FIFA standard of 115 yards long by 75 yards wide to enable Nippert to play host to international friendly matches. The current soccer field dimensions are 110 yards long and 70 yards wide.

If FC Cincinnati leaves the facility for any reason at the end of their current three-year lease, the club would be responsible for returning Nippert's seating bowl to its original configuration.

FC Cincinnati's 2017 season will be with a series of preseason games starting on Feb. 19.

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