Five things to know about FC Cincinnati joining MLS

Stadium deal was final hurdle for FC Cincinnati

The fans dominated the FC Cincinnati press conference Tuesday, parading down the center of the aisle of seats and taking their spots on each side of the podium. They chanted. They held up orange and blue scarves. They cheered as if this were a match at Nippert Stadium.

It was fitting that the fans featured so prominently in the scene at Rhinegeist Brewery because the announcement of FC Cincinnati accepting an invitation to join Major League Soccer in 2019 would never have happened if not for the supporters who have crushed United Soccer League attendance records over the past three seasons.

» PHOTOS: FC Cincinnati press conference

Those fans helped owner Carl Lindner III and General Manager Jeff Berding fulfill their dream in short order.

“This day was always the vision for Carl Lindner and me from the day we began on Aug. 12 of 2015,” Berding said. “This was always the plan. We had a vision of where we were going. We had a plan of how we were going to get there. We had a commitment to hold people accountable, and we were always guided by the same core values. It’s appropriate we’re here today in a bar because it fits the identity of our club. We’re accessible to everyone.”

While the announcement Tuesday was not a surprise — the news broke last week — there was light shed on MLS decision to add FC Cincinnati to the league. Here are five things to know about the announcement.

1. Final hurdle: The announcement of a deal to build a 21,000-seat stadium in Cincinnati's West End helped FC Cincinnati clear the final hurdle and win the bid to join the league. MLS Commissioner Don Garber, who spoke at the press conference, said the invitation was officially extended to FC Cincinnati three weeks before Tuesday's press conference.

“We sat down in our hotel conference room, and we crossed the T’s and dotted the I’s,” Garber said. “I was very comfortable with the commitments of the stadium site. I spoke to (Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley) and knew they had control of the west-side site. That was very important to us. Long term, this is not just about the team. It’s about how could this team be part of the rebirth of a city. When you have a site like that, you can really dream big dreams about what this might look like five, 10, 20 years from now.”

2. Winning bid: The MLS awarded an expansion franchise to Nashville in December. Cincinnati was competing with Detroit and Sacramento for the second bid.

“I never feared failure,” Berding said. ‘I always was confident we would be standing here. Having said that, there’s no question we had some valleys, and the valleys were very challenging. Truthfully, our supporters out there, I would run into them in bars and restaurants and Kroger and what have you and everyone was, ‘You’ve got this,’ and encouraging. You could see what it meant to our supporters and our community. That sort of fueled my determination.”

3. MLS in Ohio: At the moment, the MLS will have two Ohio teams when the 2019 season begins. However, the Columbus Crew could leave for Austin, Texas.

“This announcement’s got nothing to do in our minds with Columbus,” Garber said. “We love the state. We want to be in the Midwest. If we thought we could be as successful in Columbus as we are here in Cincinnati, then I don’t think we would be having these discussions about potentially moving the team, but no decision’s been made. There are still discussions going on as recently as two weeks ago.”

4. History lesson: Cincinnati will have three major professional sports teams for the first time since 1972 when the NBA's Cincinnati Royals moved to Kansas City, Mo.

Major League Soccer expanded to 23 teams this season with the addition of Los Angeles Football Club and will grow to 24 in 2019 with Cincinnati joining the league. Nashville and Miami are expected to join the league in 2020.

5. Looking ahead: FC Cincinnati still has a long way to go in its final season in the USL. It's 6-2-3. The regular season ends Oct. 13. The Major League Soccer season begins in March.

“We’ve been thinking of 2019 for some time,” FC Cincinnati coach Alan Koch said. “It’s why we’ve brought in some of the players that we currently have. We’re going to try to do some work in the summertime. It’s not that easy when you’re in one league and moving to another, but we’re definitely exploring all sorts of different avenues to prepare this team as best we can for 2019.”

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