Here we are folks, just a few days out from the finish line of a race we probably didn’t fully understand two years ago. Berding, Lindner, and the mayor (!?) wrapped up their final power point presentation to MLS last week capping off the most electric first two years an American soccer team has ever put together. A lot of very hard work from a lot of different people has finally culminated into this two week long waiting period. I’ve been listening to a lot of my old folk-punk albums recently, and when “Anxious and Worrying” by Defiance Ohio came on in the car, it summed up how I have been feeling about this waiting game we’re all playing right now.
If you are like me you are likely the “soccer guy” or “soccer girl” around your office and you probably get the same questions I get: “How’s the bid looking?”, “What are our chances?”, “Can they really take Detroit?”, “I saw on Twitter it’s going to be Nashville and Sacramento”, yeah, you get the point. And depending on the time of day, day of the week, and temperature outside, my answer is always different. So using the song “Anxious and Worrying”, I want to explore where we are and what is about to happen to all of us over the next handful of days.
“Anxious and worrying,
So you spend your whole life hurrying
for something better
than what you knew before”
Right now all off FC Cincinnati fandom is over-analyzing every shred of information that comes out of MLS head offices right now, looking and searching for that tiny nugget that might show which way the league is leaning. As of right now we know that Nashville, Sacramento, Detroit, and Cincinnati made presentations to the league in New York on Wednesday. We know Detroit was grilled on their stadium situation, wanting to use Ford Field (though they have added the Ford Family to their bid). We know Sacramento seemed amazingly unconfident talking about homework they have yet to do. And we know next to nothing about Nashville’s response because their officials didn’t talk to national media.
We also know that MLS is openly considering adding a team to the league in 2019 to make up for the lack of a Miami team that was supposed to be there. We know MLS has approved of Nippert Stadium as a temporary venue, and we have not heard them approve any other expansion city’s current stadiums for MLS use.
So that is where we stand with MLS. USL on the other hand continues to be the unstable messy home that we have grown to love and resent at the same time.
Harrisburg City Islanders are now Penn FC it turns out. Rochester is taking a break but we might still be playing regular season games there? Las Vegas, Fresno, and Nashville are joining the fracas. And every single “2” team has been rumored to be closing up shop at one point or another. Oh and North Carolina FC joined the league from NASL, and don’t expect them to be the last making that sheepish walk of shame back to USL.
“'Cause we've all got hearts
And they keep beating
And they keep telling-
telling us what we should say
Its hard to listen anyway”
Since the last time this blog threw out a post a lot of activity has been going on with FC Cincinnati fans in general and Pride members specifically. The group “Build it Here” became very active over the last month and a half making appearances at County and City meetings, popping up on radio shows, and causing a bit of a tweetstorm with elected officials on twitter (where else would a tweetstorm happen?) The push to get a stadium deal locked down in Cincinnati kicked into high gear and we came out the other side with a stadium deal in place. It was a remarkable experience for a lot of members of the Pride to take part in, getting a real taste of local politics and seeing how our community can come together to build, literally, something we want to see happen. So a massive thank you to all of the members of the Pride who made their voices heard during this process, know that you made this happen.
We also elected, or I should say reelected, the board for our little organization. President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, Creative Director ,and Membership Coordinator all were reelected with Payne Rankin, Chris White, Matt Broo, Mark Szwejkowski, Hannah Motz, and Abbey Witzgall respectively reclaiming those offices. Radio superstar Max Ellerbe succeeds Zach McClurg as Match Day Coordinator. And Pete Wietmarschen and yours truly joining the board with at-large seats. A solid leadership to guide this lovable group of supporters into the future, if I do say so myself.
“And I sure hope we aren't just spinning our wheels.
Whatever happens, I think you should know
I'm just glad it feels like anything at all”
These lines exactly sum up how I feel about the expansion process right now. This is how I answer most people who ask “how do our chances look?”: There is nothing else Cincinnati could have done up to this point. We have built one of the most rabid soccer fan-bases in the country, and frankly put a lot of MLS teams to shame. We have a stellar ownership group and a stadium deal done in the city of Cincinnati. We have one of the most lucrative shirt sponsors lined up should we get the nod. We have a coaching staff that has proven it can compete with, and beat, MLS teams. And we have a city that is fully invested in this team, literally and figuratively. If FC Cincinnati is passed over this time around, it means we never had a shot when this team was announced. Nashville and Detroit don’t even have teams right now and Sacramento is good but we have showed them up over the last year or so.
So if I had to guess now what would happen? It’s looking more and more like Columbus moving to Austin opens the door for two eastern teams and Nashville and Cincinnati will be selected. And if you told me any other combination of teams were being taken instead, I wouldn’t be shocked. Detroit is a lot of money to leave on the table and Nashville . . . uhhh . . . is a “cool city”, I guess? I mean if you’re really into country music fueled bachelorette parties go for it MLS.
At the end of the day though, these past two years of dragging a historically stubborn and conservative city into the future has been a blast. Soccer is not only taking root here in Cincinnati, it is taking over. The friendships we’ve fostered and connections we’ve made around the country in this time has been extraordinary as well. Soccer bring fans together in a way no other sport really does. Taking this little team playing in a college football stadium into an international phenomenon on the cusp of first division status has been the best roller coaster ride of my life. Regardless of what happens, I know fans will stay with this team. Our game isn’t over if this invitation doesn’t come. We can still punish MLS in the Open Cup, set ourselves up for the next round of expansion, and shower louisville with streamers.
“So don't push me down, I don't go down easy.
And don't pick me up just to see me be the boy you knew.
It's just the distance between we and who we wish
that we could be don't seem so far, I guess, as it did so long ago”
So this is it. We sit and wait for the weirdest thing a professional sports league has ever done. When other leagues in this country expand, it feels like it comes out of nowhere. Or more generally an expansion team is awarded to a city that lost a franchise in the not-so-distant-past. But here, we’re playing “America’s Got Soccer Markets” on a national stage where the contestants break news about kiosks and new billionaire best friends in an attempt to drum up interest.
One thing I am very curious about is how MLS is actually going to announce this thing. Flying the Don out to the two cities that get selected will be so telegraphed that it will serve as the de-facto announcement. Or maybe a Facebook live event on the 18th? Or the most cruel suggestion I have heard is to do a live TV show like the NCAA selection shows do with teams on the bubble. A live camera in Detroit, Nashville, Sacramento, and Cincinnati show the faces of the billionaire owners and the token fans who took off of work are seen cheering and happy up until they learn, live on air, all of their work was for naught. It’ll be “The Decision” but more so. Being an American soccer fan is weird.
So here is to two weeks of stress. Two weeks of watching who starts following whom on twitter. Two weeks of leaks, rumors, and parsing phrases. Two weeks of being peppered with the same few questions over and over again. Good luck everyone. Stay sane. And let’s go win that bid.