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FC Cincinnati officially awarded expansion team for 2019—what does this mean for the Rapids?

The announcement yesterday marks the 26th MLS team. How does this impact teams like the Colorado Rapids?

MLS: MLS Expansion-Press Conference Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

One did not expect Major League Soccer to make a major announcement in Cincinnati about expanding to, say, Sacramento or Detroit. The hashtag #MLS2CINCY featured prominently on Twitter, and no one was surprised when MLS Commissioner Don Garber announced Cincinnati as the latest city to earn an MLS franchise in a press conference yesterday afternoon.

Following the announcement in late January of Nashville and Miami awarded an MLS team, yesterday brought excitement to an FC Cincinnati team that shattered the odds and the paradigm of a USL squad. As usual, the two aspects of a potential MLS team helped the Queen City’s cause: strong attendance and a state-of-the-art soccer stadium. In 2018, the club sold 17,000 season tickets and has averaged over 24,000 fans per game.

What this means...

  1. FC Cincinnati is the 26th team now in MLS. Commissioner Garber has made his ambitions for the league clear—28 teams by 2020. In 2019, he will only be two shy. As mentioned in a previous article, I fear the dilution of the MLS product with this rapid type of expansion.
  2. Is this the death knell for Columbus Crew? Not quite, but one does wonder if the inclusion of FC Cincinnati is due to the tenuous situation in Columbus and the need for a strong team in that area. I doubt that a move by the Crew to Austin would automatically bring the disenfranchised fans over to FC Cincinnati. We’ll have to wait and see what transpires.
  3. What does this mean for the Colorado Rapids franchise? With these new teams coming on board over the last few years (Atlanta United, Minnesota United, Los Angeles FC, New York City FC, Nashville, Miami, and now Cincinnati), the criteria is clear: strong attendance, state-of-the-art soccer-specific stadium, a strong sponsor, and an engaged ownership. The Rapids have decent-to-low attendance, a dated stadium, a strong sponsor in TransAmerica, and a markedly disengaged ownership.

So for diehard Rapids supporters, whatever excitement they may have for the league also highlights several issues:

  • The moving of the Crew away from Columbus and their supporter base to another city, likely Austin, makes Rapids supporters wonder about the possibility of a move.
  • We ask, “Why can’t we have an owner that displays even the remotest of interest in our club?” Seeing these owners embrace their squad and promising to do whatever it takes to put a competitive, entertaining club on the pitch for the fans just makes us yearn for that here in Commerce City.
  • While Dick’s Sporting Goods Park is home to us supporters, will we continue to upgrade (for there have been some nice upgrades in the offseason) to be worthy of an MLS stadium? Will the criteria for new clubs coming in be turned toward an expectation for those in already in the league?

As for the league, FC Cincinnati will be a welcomed addition! And, as a Louisville City FC fan I struggle to say this, they have a tremendous and active supporter base that will cause many casual fans to take notice.

As a Rapids supporter . . . well . . . it puts me ill-at-ease.