After a resoundingly successful debut season, FC Cincinnati has helped make its city an MLS expansion candidate. Now those prospects may be increased by the development of a new training facility.
When looking at attendance, it is clear that FC Cincinnati can begin building a strong case for the MLS. In its first season in the USL, the club led the way by drawing a league-record 259,437 total fans. FC Cincinnati also set a record with its per-game average of 17,296 spectators.
Being able to sustain those numbers at Nippert Stadium would only help to build the hype for Cincinnati’s MLS hopes. However, one of the key questions is whether FC Cincinnati can build an organization that is more conducive to a higher league.
A key part of that equation is a training facility. Many MLS organizations are tapping into practice facilities to strengthen their organizations, and are often looking at options that are separate from their main stadium. As was seen with this week’s announcement of a forthcoming practice facility for New York City FC, training centers can also help to broaden a team’s geographic appeal beyond the city in which its plays.
FC Cincinnati now says that an off-site practice facility is in the works. While it will be constructed in several phases, FC Cincinnati president and general manager Jeff Berding recently told Steve Watkins of the Cincinnati Business Courier that it could be expanded to meet MLS standards:
“I’d imagine it’ll be built in stages,” Berding told me. “Our plan is to have it open in 2017 and be able to add to it, so if we’re fortunate enough to get an MLS (Major League Soccer) invitation, we’ll be able to upgrade it long term to be an MLS-quality facility.”
Berding and coach John Harkes want their own grass fields where the team can practice. Berding talked to me about that for a cover story I wrote for subscribers for Friday’s Weekly Edition. Immediate plans do not call for an indoor facility at the practice site. For now, the team uses existing indoor facilities such as UC’s temporarily enclosed practice field, known as the bubble, and Wall2Wall in Mason, when needed for practice.
Berding and FC Cincinnati owner Carl Lindner III made it clear from the time they launched a year ago, well before the first game was played, that their ultimate goal is to get the franchise into MLS.
Having a practice facility ready in the event that the MLS selects Cincinnati will certainly be a big boost to the organization’s chances. As we have noted before, however, one question that could come up is whether a venue other than Nippert Stadium could be on the table, as several other expansion candidates are proposing new soccer-specific facilities.
MLS commissioner Don Garber is set to visit Cincinnati in November.
Image courtesy FC Cincinnati
This article first appeared in the weekly Soccer Stadium Digest newsletter. Are you a subscriber?Sign up here for your free subscription!