| The United Soccer League announced today that FC Cincinnati will be the league’s 26th franchise and will begin play at Nippert Stadium in 2016. The announcement was made at a news conference at the Richard E. Lindner Athletic Center Auditorium on the Campus of the University of Cincinnati.
Led by principal owner Carl Lindner III, the FC Cincinnati ownership also includes George Joseph (Joseph Automotive Group), Stephen L. Hightower (Hightowers Petroleum Co.), and Jack Wyant (Blue Chip Venture Company). Longtime Cincinnati Bengals executive Jeff Berding will serve as President & General Manager, and former Procter & Gamble brand manager Gary De Jesus will be Executive Vice President, Operations & Marketing.
FC Cincinnati introduced U.S. soccer icon John Harkes as its head coach, with the two-time World Cup participant and MLS Cup winner set to begin building the club immediately. Harkes, the first American to play in the English Premier League, has also served as a television color commentator for MLS and World Cup matches.
“It is with great excitement that we welcome FC Cincinnati to the USL,” USL CEO Alec Papadakis said. “We are equally excited and proud to welcome Carl Lindner III, a most distinguished resident of Cincinnati, to our league’s ownership. Mr. Lindner is known nationally for his vast business achievements, as well as his expertise in the sports business as the former owner of the Cincinnati Reds.
“In addition, we enthusiastically welcome Jeff Berding, a longtime senior executive with the Cincinnati Bengals, as a minority owner and President of FC Cincinnati. The combined experience of this ownership and management team will ensure that FC Cincinnati is destined to become a soccer stronghold on the Ohio River.”
Nippert Stadium, located near downtown and on the campus of the University of Cincinnati, was originally constructed in 1924 and recently completed an $85 million renovation project. The stadium seats 38,000 and is one of the most historic stadiums in the nation.
“This is a great day for Cincinnati’s many soccer fans,” Berding said. “Cincinnati has a strong tradition of support for youth soccer, and now that passion can be applied to professional soccer. Fans know that soccer is the world’s game and U.S. soccer continues to grow in quality and fan participation.
“On behalf of Carl Lindner and all of our owners and staff, we thank UC President Santa Ono for his support in partnering with us to share Nippert Stadium, providing a top-notch facility for high quality soccer matches. Our promise is to bring a brand of professional soccer that strives for success and is very entertaining.”
Cincinnati is the 28th largest metropolitan area in the U.S. with approximately 2.1 million residents. It is home to many Fortune 50 and 500 companies, including the largest consumer product goods company and grocery retailer in the country.
There are more than 55,000 registered youth soccer players in Cincinnati, and the directors of the region’s four largest youth soccer clubs (Cincinnati United, Kings Hammer, Ohio Elite and Total Futbol Academy) sit on the FC Cincinnati Advisory Board.
FC Cincinnati announced a “Be The One,” contest, where fans can register via the team’s social media sites and website to be the No. 1 season ticket holder of FC Cincinnati. For more information about the contest and season tickets, visit www.fccincinnati.com.
The USL is a vital piece of the growth and development of soccer in North America, on and off the field. With 24 clubs in the 2015 season, the USL looks to expand strategically with strong ownership groups that share the league’s passion and vision, in markets that are positioned for long-term success. The USL recently announced the addition of RGVFC for the 2016 season.