|Full name||Football Club Cincinnati|
|Nickname(s)||The Orange and Blue|
|Founded||August 12, 2015|
|Owner||Carl Lindner III|
|General manager||Chris Albright|
|Head coach||Pat Noonan|
|League||Major League Soccer|
|2023||Eastern Conference: 1st|
Playoffs: Conference Finals
FC Cincinnati is an American professional soccer club based in Cincinnati. The club plays in the Eastern Conference of Major League Soccer (MLS). The team was first announced on August 12, 2015 as a United Soccer League (USL) franchise which played from 2016 to 2018. On May 29, 2018, the club's ownership was awarded an MLS franchise, and the team began MLS play on March 2, 2019. The club's ownership group is led by Carl H. Lindner III with Jeff Berding serving as co-CEO. Currently, the role of general manager is held by Chris Albright.
United Soccer League era (2016–18)
In May 2015, rumors of a new USL club in Cincinnati were reported by the media. There was speculation regarding the relationship the team would have with the Cincinnati Bengals, as well as a former Cincinnati soccer club, the Cincinnati Kings, as Jeff Berding was named as part of the ownership group. Berding was employed by the Bengals and on the board of the youth soccer club Kings Hammer FC. The Lindner family, of American Financial Group which is headquartered in Cincinnati, was reported as the owner of the new team with Carl Lindner III representing the owners at the press conference.
On April 16, 2016, FC Cincinnati broke the USL attendance record for a game, with 20,497 in attendance for the rivalry game against Louisville City FC, and, on May 14, against another rival Pittsburgh Riverhounds, broke its own record with 23,375 in attendance. On September 17, 2016, the team broke the USL record again, when they drew 24,376 for their game against Orlando City B. The team broke its own USL record once again on August 5, 2017, when they drew 25,308 for their game against Orlando City B.
On July 16, 2016, FC Cincinnati set the record for highest attendance at a soccer match in the state of Ohio when 35,061 people came for an exhibition game against Crystal Palace. This would later be broken on July 27, 2016 when an International Champions Cup match between Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain drew 86,641 people in Ohio Stadium in Columbus.
On October 2, 2016, FC Cincinnati hosted their first-ever playoff match against Charleston Battery, losing 2–1 in the quarterfinals of the 2016 USL playoffs. In the process, the club broke the playoff and single-game attendance record at 30,187.
On June 14, 2017, FC Cincinnati played their first match against a Major League Soccer team, Columbus Crew SC, during the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Cincinnati won 1–0, with player Baye Djiby Fall scoring the only goal of the game. In the process, Cincinnati broke the attendance record for the U.S. Open Cup Fourth Round with 30,160 tickets sold, only 5,000 behind their club attendance record of 35,061.
On June 28, 2017, FC Cincinnati played their second match against a Major League Soccer team, Chicago Fire, in the Round of 16 during the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Cincinnati would prevail 3–1 on penalty kicks after a 0–0 draw, with goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt stopping three of four penalty kicks. He totaled 10 saves during the match. The attendance of 32,287 was the second largest Modern Era crowd in U.S. Open Cup history. The match was televised nationally on ESPN.
On August 15, 2017, FC Cincinnati were defeated at home in front of a sold-out crowd by the New York Red Bulls 3–2 in the US Open Cup semi-final. FCC was leading 2–0 in the second half before eventually losing in extra time.
On April 7, 2018, the club set the USL attendance record for a home opener at 25,667 in a 1–0 loss to rival Louisville City.
On September 29, 2018, the club broke the USL attendance record once again in its final regular-season home match before its MLS move, drawing in 31,478 in a 3–0 win over rival Indy Eleven. With the win, they also clinched the USL regular season title.
Major League Soccer expansion
The club owners began negotiations with Major League Soccer over a potential expansion franchise in early 2016, and Cincinnati was announced as one of ten cities that had expressed interest in the slots for teams 25 to 28. MLS Commissioner Don Garber visited Cincinnati in December 2016 to tour Nippert Stadium and meet with city and club officials, complimenting the city and its fans. FC Cincinnati formally submitted its expansion bid in January 2017, including a shortlist of potential stadium locations.
On May 29, 2018, Major League Soccer announced that Cincinnati would join the league in 2019 as an expansion team under the FC Cincinnati brand. Don Garber is noted as saying, “If it wasn’t for the stadium, for The Bailey, FC Cincinnati wouldn’t have been in Major League Soccer.” Plans for the development of TQL Stadium, a 26,000-seat soccer-specific venue in the West End set to open in 2021, were soon underway.
FC Cincinnati signed its first two MLS players, Fanendo Adi and Fatai Alashe, in July 2018. Adi was the team's first Designated Player. Both players were loaned to the FC Cincinnati USL team for the remainder of the 2018 season.
FC Cincinnati selected five players from certain MLS teams in the expansion draft, which took place on December 11, 2018. The players were Darren Mattocks (D.C United), Kei Kamara (Vancouver Whitecaps FC), Roland Lamah (FC Dallas), Eric Alexander (Houston Dynamo), and Hassan Ndam (New York Red Bulls). Kei Kamara was then traded to the Colorado Rapids for an international roster spot.
Major League Soccer era (2019–present)
FC Cincinnati played their first match as a Major League Soccer franchise on March 3, 2019, a 4–1 road loss to Seattle Sounders FC. They played their first MLS home opener on March 17, 2019, a 3–0 win over Portland Timbers before a sellout crowd of 32,350. On May 7, 2019, the club fired head coach Alan Koch after a 2–7–2 start to the 2019 MLS season. Assistant coach Yoann Damet was named as interim head coach. President and general manager Jeff Berding cited a culmination of on-field performance and off-field matters for the dismissal. On August 8, 2019, Ron Jans was officially hired and made head coach of FC Cincinnati. However, Jans resigned on February 17, 2020, amidst an investigation into his alleged use of a racial slur.
On August 6, 2021, FC Cincinnati announced that the club and then general manager Gerard Nijkamp had "parted ways effective immediately". On September 27, 2021, the club relieved the duties of head coach Jaap Stam, 2-time interim head coach Yoann Damet, and assistant coach Said Bakkati. Former MLS defender Tyrone Marshall was named interim coach.
On October 4, 2021, FC Cincinnati announced the hiring of Chris Albright as the general manager of the club. On December 14, 2021, FC Cincinnati officially hired Pat Noonan as the new head coach of the team. Under the first season of the Albright-Noonan regime, the Orange and Blue would qualify for their first post-season in 2022 on 49 points (12–9–13), good for fifth in the East (eighth in the league). Brenner and Brandon Vázquez would score a joint-best 18 goals in the regular season, the first time in MLS history teammates had made such a mark; in addition, Luciano Acosta contributed 10 goals and a league-leading 19 assists to a Cincinnati side that netted 64 goals on the season. Cincinnati defeated New York Red Bulls in their first MLS Cup Playoffs match (2–1) before losing to top-seeded Philadelphia Union in the conference semifinals, 1–0.
FC Cincinnati's June 21, 2023 win against Toronto FC tied the MLS record for consecutive home wins in a single-season, a record held since 2002 by the San Jose Earthquakes. The club was the first in the 2023 season to clinch a playoff berth in the MLS Cup Playoffs, doing so away at Atlanta United FC on August 30. On September 23, a 3–0 victory against Charlotte FC earned the club its first qualification to the 2024 CONCACAF Champion's Cup.
FC Cincinnati won the MLS Supporters' Shield on September 30, 2023, after beating Toronto FC away 3–2. The trophy awards the regular season's top-finishing club across both conferences. It is the second trophy the club has won in its existence and the first in its MLS era. FCC is the second-fastest active expansion club to win the Supporters' Shield since the league's first expansion in 1998; 2019's LAFC, in their second season, is the only club to have done it quicker.
From 2016 through 2020, FC Cincinnati played home matches at Nippert Stadium on the campus of the University of Cincinnati, also home to the school's football team. The stadium was designed for American football and underwent a minor renovation in 2016 to accommodate the soccer team, a few months after the completion of a major renovation by the football team. FC Cincinnati limited stadium capacity for USL matches to approximately 25,000 with upper level sections covered. The stadium design meets all Major League Soccer criteria as well as being able to host FIFA sponsored events. The "Bailey" is the official supporters section in Nippert, with a capacity of 1,700 and regular displays of flags, tifos, and colored smoke. Other sections of the stadium catered towards casual fans and families, including sections with bleachers seating and club seating.
On June 26, 2018, the club announced plans to build a training complex in Milford, Ohio. The estimated $30 million project occupies approximately 23.6 acres (9.6 ha) and serves as the base for soccer operations, including the MLS first team and FCC Academy's training and performance activities. The facility is also expected to host between 6 and 20 soccer-related events a year, including first-team scrimmages, FCC Academy games and local soccer tournaments. The complex was completed by the end of 2019.
From 2016, FC Cincinnati had publicly discussed plans to build their own soccer-specific stadium. They had a shortlist of three possible stadium sites in 2017, and in 2018, made moves to purchase land in the West End neighborhood. Construction of TQL Stadium began in 2019 and finished in 2021. The new stadium hosted its first match, a 3–2 loss to Inter Miami CF, on May 16, 2021.
Colors and badge
The original crest, used during the team's USL era, was a simple shield with a crown and the winged lion of Saint Mark the Evangelist holding a sword and a soccer ball. The colors and crests originated with the Dayton Dutch Lions, the team's launch partner.
An updated crest was designed after they were accepted as an expansion team to Major League Soccer. It maintains the same orange and blue color scheme but now pays tribute to the city of Cincinnati.
|Period||Kit manufacturer||Shirt sponsor||Sleeve sponsor|
|2020||First Financial Bank|
FC Cincinnati reached a multiyear deal with First Financial Bank to serve as the club's exclusive banking and financial services partner. First Financial will gain many benefits from this partnership. There will be a First Financial Gate as well as a premium club area at the new stadium. They will also be involved in planning community events, fan experiences and game-day activities. As part of an extended sponsorship, First Financial Bank was announced as FC Cincinnati's sleeve sponsor, along with Cintas.
The club recognizes the following supporters' groups: Auxilia One, the Briogáid (formerly The Bailey Bastards), The 5th Line, Die Innenstadt, Hangar 937, Knights of the Bailey, Norden, The Pride, Queen City Firm, and the Queen City Mafia. All of these supporter groups are organized under a unified body called 'The Incline Collective', which is responsible for pooling resources for community events, tifos, organizing 'The March', and coordinating with the club. The Pride, FCC's oldest supporter's group, has two satellite chapters; The Pride Orange and Bluegrass, based in Lexington, Kentucky, and The Pride 812, based in Southeastern Indiana. Current and former unrecognized supporters' groups include but are not limited to The Bridge, Caballeros, and The Naked Knights.  As of 2023, known international fan groups include Kumasinnati in Kumasi, Ghana, FC Cincy UK Supporters, and FC Cincinnati France.
The March began when the club was playing in the USL and is one of the longest-running and most beloved traditions of FC Cincinnati supporters. In its earliest iterations, this pre-match celebration involved fans participating in an organized march to Nippert Stadium, joining gradually from base points along the route in Over The Rhine (OTR) and Clifton, usually "home" pubs for various supporter groups and fans.
Since the club moved into TQL Stadium in 2021, The March weaves through various points of interest in OTR and West End neighborhoods including Findlay Market and several breweries and pubs such as Northern Row, OTR Stillhouse, Holiday Spirits, Taft's Ale House, The Symphony Hotel, and The Pitch. The group makes a stop at Washington Park – the principal location of the club's pre-match fan festivities – to link up with more fans for a rally. When The March re-commences, supporters pass Cincinnati Music Hall and enter the final leg to TQL Stadium.
The club's most common nickname is The Orange and Blue.
Many supporters colloquially refer to the club as "The FC" or simply "FC". This habit emerged when the club played in USL and was using its first crest, which prioritized the large letters "FC" over a more diminutive "Cincinnati". Giving more continuity to the sizing of the text to emphasize the name of the city was prioritized in the MLS rebrand, but some continue to endearingly attribute the nickname The FC or FC the club.
Cincinnati has an in-state rival in Columbus Crew. The idea of the Ohio soccer rivalry first gained popularity ahead of a 2017 U.S. Open Cup match between FC Cincinnati (then in the United Soccer League) and the Crew. The rivalry was dubbed the Hell Is Real Derby after a billboard on Interstate 71, the highway between Columbus and Cincinnati. The clubs faced each other in their first league matches in 2019: on August 10 in Columbus and August 25 in Cincinnati (the latter match took place during MLS Rivalry Week).
Louisville City FC
During FC Cincinnati's USL tenure, its main league and regional rival was Louisville City FC, located a mere 100 miles southwest of Cincinnati along the Ohio River. The two clubs competed annually for the River Cities Cup in what was known to locals as "The Dirty River Derby". The rivalry became one of the best-attended and most hotly-contested matchups in lower division US soccer.
The cities' two main universities (Louisville and Cincinnati) had a long-standing football rivalry and basketball rivalry that ended in 2013 due to conference realignment. Both teams went 1–1–1 against each other in each of the first two seasons of the rivalry (2016 and 2017), with Cincinnati taking the cup home in 2016 and Louisville City doing so in 2017, both on aggregate. Louisville City retained the trophy in 2018 by winning the first two of the teams' three regular-season matches. The two teams most recently played each other in the Third Round of the 2023 U.S. Open Cup at TQL Stadium with FC Cincinnati winning 1–0.
Some media has pointed to Nashville SC as a possible rival. The clubs first met in 2018, when both were part of the United Soccer League. FC Cincinnati coach Pat Noonan rejected notions of Nashville being a rival, saying in 2023 of an upcoming match, "We haven't spoken about it as a rivalry game."
During the team's USL era, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds were noted as a possible rival. They are located less than 290 miles away and were formerly the second closest USL team from Cincinnati. This rivalry developed from the rivalry between the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers. In the first-ever meeting between the two clubs, the Riverhounds-FC Cincinnati match set a then-USL record crowd of 23,375 fans. The May 14, 2016 match was dubbed an "Orange Out" and had Bengals players on the pitch before the match as honorary captains.
Cincinnati also had a USL-era rivalry with the Charlotte Independence, known as the Queen City Cup Challenge. The two "Queen Cities" faced in the inaugural home match at Nippert Stadium for FC Cincinnati in April 2016. Cincinnati would claim the rivalry cup in both the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
Former Cincinnati Bengals executive Jeff Berding was the club's original president and general manager, and in 2022, he was promoted to co-CEO. The CEO and majority owner of the team is Carl Lindner III, CEO of American Financial Group, with Scott Farmer also a leading owner. The club's original ownership group in their USL era also included Chris Lindner (Carl III's son), David L. Thompson, Jeff Berding, Scott Farmer, Steve Hightower, George Joseph, Mike Mossel (who is an owner of the Dayton Dutch Lions), and Jack Wyant.
In May 2019, Dutch football executive Gerard Nijkamp joined the club as general manager to oversee all the club's sports activities. On August 6, 2021, Nijkamp and the club mutually agreed to part ways. The club was 7–20–10 during his tenure.
On March 22, 2017, FC Cincinnati reached an agreement with Sinclair Broadcast Group to have WKRC-TV, WSTR-TV and CinCW 12.2 televise all home and away games, including playoff games. Nine games aired on WSTR, four on CinCW, and two on Local 12. Tom Gelehrter called play-by-play with Kevin McCloskey and Paul Rockwood as color analysts. Lindsay Patterson served as sideline reporter.
For the club's first two seasons, all live USL matches were live-streamed on YouTube. A few weeks into their third season, however, the USL reached an agreement with ESPN to make ESPN+ its official live-streaming service starting on April 12, 2018. USL matches remained accessible outside of the United States on YouTube.
On January 30, 2019, FC Cincinnati reached an agreement with Sinclair Broadcast Group to have WSTR-TV televise all home and away games, except for ones already scheduled to be broadcast nationally. Continuing from their roles on the former USL team, Tom Gelehrter would call play-by-play with Kevin McCloskey as color analyst. Lindsay Patterson served as sideline reporter through 2019, and Alex Stec held the position from 2020.
From 2023, all FC Cincinnati matches are available on MLS Season Pass from Apple TV, ending FC Cincinnati's time on local TV. Gelehrter and McCloskey maintained their commentary roles on local radio broadcasts, which are also available through Apple TV during home games.
Players and staff
- As of September 19, 2023
Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.
Out on loan
Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.
|General manager||Chris Albright|
|Head coach||Pat Noonan|
|Assistant coach||Dominic Kinnear|
|Assistant coach||Kenny Arena|
|Goalkeeping coach||Paul Rogers|
|Assistant/development coach||Ricardo Páez|
|Head of performance analysis||Scott Madle|
|Performance analyst||Simon Wigley|
|Technical director||Hunter Freeman|
|Director of soccer strategy||Kyle McCarthy|
|Technical staff data analyst||Spencer Niehaus|
|Regional scout||Doug Elder|
|European scout||Mike Mossel|
|South American scout||Raul Tieffenberg|
|Scouting analyst||Tom Waldron|
|Director of sports performance||Gary Walker|
|Director of sports medicine||Aaron Powell|
|Strength & conditioning coach||Austin Berry|
|Video analyst||Diego Martinez del Campo|
|Manager of team personnel||Tommy Rogers|
|Kit manager||Teddy Kerr|
|Data and analytics||Alexander Schram|
Last updated: November 3, 2023
Source: FC Cincinnati
|John Harkes||United States||August 12, 2015 – February 17, 2017|
|Alan Koch||South Africa||February 17, 2017 – May 7, 2019|
|Yoann Damet (interim)||France||May 7, 2019 – August 4, 2019|
|Ron Jans||Netherlands||August 4, 2019 – February 17, 2020|
|Yoann Damet (interim)||France||February 17, 2020 – May 21, 2020|
|Jaap Stam||Netherlands||May 21, 2020 – September 27, 2021|
|Tyrone Marshall (interim)||Jamaica||September 27, 2021 – November 7, 2021|
|Pat Noonan||United States||December 14, 2021 – present|
|2016–2017||Austin Berry||United States|
|2019–2020||Kendall Waston||Costa Rica|
This is a partial list of the last five seasons completed by FC Cincinnati. For the full season-by-season history, see List of FC Cincinnati seasons.
|Season||League||Position||Playoffs||USOC||Continental / Other||Avg. att.||Top goalscorer|
|2020||MLS||23||4||15||4||12||36||−24||16||0.70||14th||26th||NH||MLS is Back Tournament||Ro16||N/A||Yuya Kubo||3|
|2023||MLS||34||20||5||9||57||39||18||69||2.03||1st||1st||CF||SF||Leagues Cup||R32||25,367||Luciano Acosta||19|
^ 1. Avg. attendance include statistics from league matches only.
^ 2. Top goalscorer(s) includes all goals scored in League, Playoffs, U.S. Open Cup, MLS is Back Tournament, Leagues Cup, CONCACAF Champions League, FIFA Club World Cup, and other competitive continental matches.
Note: United Soccer League era statistics are not included in the below records.
- As of October 24, 2023
|6||Alvas Powell||2019, 2022–present||66||2||7||3||78|
- As of October 24, 2023
- As of October 24, 2023
Bolded players are currently on the FC Cincinnati roster.
- Major League Soccer
- United Soccer League
- Regular season champions (1): 2018
On September 25, 2020, FC Cincinnati signed a partnership agreement with Bundesliga club TSG 1899 Hoffenheim. Furthermore, the club is also a part of the "Common Values Club Alliance" with Hoffenheim, and Ghanaian Premier League club Hearts of Oak SC.
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