I moved here two years ago for a job and really didn’t have the expectations of the city that I do now. One day I was walking the streets in downtown and I noticed some gear for a soccer team named FC Cincinnati. I am a big fan of the sport, but I really didn’t know much about this team. Of course as the months went by and the seasons changed I knew a lot more about the team after reading about them.
I can’t say I was a big fan from the beginning, but I always tried to watch their games whenever I got the chance. I slowly became more and more invested and then finally I attended one, all by myself (I was still somewhat new to the city, but I still like to do things even without people accompanying me). It ended in a draw, but I finally saw what the experience was like and enjoyed myself very much at that game. I wanted to go to more. And from there I was hooked as I watched every match from then on including their friendly with Crystal Palace.
I saw it first hand, this city loves it’s soccer. And even the ones who don’t, they wanted to see what all the buzz was about and then wanted to go back and see more. Even last year during U.S. Open Cup, some players who played in Europe compared the atmosphere to what it’s like in Europe. I saw what it was like before it was given a spotlight last summer in a match against Chicago Fire in the US Open Cup as ESPN decided to cover the game. That’s when the soccer community first took notice of it, but we here in Cincinnati already knew what it was like. After FC Cincinnati won that game in thrilling fashion, that should have been the moment where the thought of the city getting a Major League Soccer team was at the point of inevitability.
On May 29, Don Garber, Commissioner of MLS, came to Cincinnati and awarded an expansion team to the city. Cincinnati finally had their MLS team. I was in Fountain Square watching in excitement as that announcement was made. Before the announcement was made, I thought it would have been silly if the MLS never awarded a team to Cincinnati as it was clear there was backing. I mean, heck, they outdraw all, but six MLS teams right now and even on the same par in terms of attendance of teams in England. That says a lot. I never thought much of that ever happening, but after that one hot summer day in 2016, I changed how I felt about that.
The one thing people don’t realize is that people in Cincinnati are absolutely sports crazed. They have had to deal with humility so many times the past two decades, but yet they have stuck behind their teams. They love their baseball, football, and college basketball here. But now they have shown how crazed they are with this awesome journey two years after FC Cincinnati came into existence which allowed this city to get a third major professional sports franchise. The people of Cincinnati deserve this and it’s awesome to see how things went from 0-60 like that.
However there was one moment that stood out for me and that was when Don Garber said that the city had him from hello. You know what, FC Cincinnati and the city had me from the moment I said hello.
No, there was no trophy to raise, but that was a special day. This city has endured so much heartbreak that this felt like a major victory. And it was and I feel like it will lead to a lot more than just that.
What Cincinnati has done is not only unprecedented, but also remarkable and has truly put an old myth about the sport in this country to bed. Soccer may not ever become the most popular sport here, but it is now mainstream. It shows that it is popular in this country and people are embracing it. Cincinnati only symbolizes what American soccer really is and others should really follow suit.