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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)



Less than two months after FC Cincinnati completed its first United Soccer League campaign in 2016, Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber swooped in and charmed the local fan base with big hopes for the future by saying Cincinnati "deserves an MLS team."

Exactly 18 months later, he returned to officially invite FC Cincinnati into the top division.

FCC, now in its third season, was named the league's 26th team Tuesday during a special event at Rhinegeist, a brewery in Over-the-Rhine. The club will begin MLS play in 2019, with plans to remain at Nippert Stadium until its new 21,000-seat soccer-specific stadium is completed in the West End in 2021.

"Cincinnati's selection by Major League Soccer for an expansion team is a triumph for the continued renaissance of this incredible city," FC Cincinnati CEO and majority owner Carl Lindner III said.

The celebratory announcement Tuesday brought a collective sense of relief and joy to fans, club personnel and local government officials who supported Cincinnati's bid to become one of four expansion franchises made open by a formal application process last January.

Garber had said during his visit on November 29, 2016, that there was "a lot" that still needed "to be done here," but as the expansion process played out, it seemed FC Cincinnati was checking all the boxes. It seemed just a matter of time, but as weeks past anxiety grew.

Nashville was awarded a spot in December when the first two clubs were expected to be named, and Cincinnati has been waiting ever since to find out if it would get in ahead of the two other finalists in Sacramento and Detroit. Deadlines came and went, and even after Cincinnati City Council approved plans for theclub-financed $250 million West End stadium on April 16, no news followed until Thursday when FCC confirmed with a press release there would be a "major announcement regarding the future of soccer in Cincinnati" on Tuesday.

With the expansion bid awarded, Cincinnati brings to the majors a deep-pocketed ownership group led by the billionaire Lindner family, a supportive market that draws 24,417 fans a game in a minor league that averages less than 5,000 and the promise of one of the most urban soccer-specific stadiums in the country. All were significant factors that ultimately made MLS choose Cincinnati.

"The rise of Cincinnati as a passionate soccer market in recent years, coinciding with the city's growing economy and reputation as a top desination for young professionals makes it an ideal city for our growing league," Garber said.

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May 30, 2018


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