Best of 2016: #3, FC Cincinnati

USL FC Cincinnati

We end 2016 with a countdown of the 10 biggest stories of the year on Soccer Stadium Digest, as chosen by editors and partially based on page views. Today, #3: FC Cincinnati’s successful debut season and its quest to join the MLS.

In 2016, FC Cincinnati showed the soccer world all that it can become, drawing record crowds to Nippert Stadium and laying what it hopes is the groundwork for eventual entry as an expansion team into the MLS.

But as this triumphant debut season in the USL came to a close in the league quarterfinals, FC Cincinnati was reminded that no matter how far and how fast they’ve come of age, there is still plenty of work ahead to achieve their lofty dreams.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber visited Cincinnati in late November, an act that demonstrated the impression FC Cincinnati made on the MLS in its first season of existence. And, indeed, it was hard not to take notice in mid-July, when FC Cincinnati hosted Crystal Palace F.C. of the Premier League and drew an eye-popping crowd of 35,061 – the most ever to watch a soccer match in Ohio state history and more than the MLS drew for any of its games that weekend.

Even London’s venerable Telegraph was blown away by the achievement:

It is an incredible achievement for a club who were founded less than a year ago and proved once again why their lofty ambitions to become an MLS expansion team are fully justified.

And so it was that Garber made his visit to Cincinnati just after Thanksgiving, but the commissioner tamped down some of the excitement with a bit of a reality check.

For one, the team’s current venue, Nippert Stadium, is run by the University of Cincinnati, not the team, and would likely not measure up as a MLS-quality venue. And Cincinnati is far from the only expansion candidate aiming for a 2020 entry into the league.

But, still, Garber’s praise for FC Cincinnati was hard to ignore, and surely will keep the team and the city finding ways to improve their standing as the expansion countdown begins in earnest.

Previously in our Top Ten Stories of 2016 List:

#4: Minnesota United FC

#5: Orlando City SC Preps for New Era

#6: D.C. United Plan New Stadium

#7: Louisville City FC

#8: Tampa Bay Rowdies

#9: Charlotte Pushes for the MLS

#10: St. Louis Makes its Expansion Case

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