Don Garber Visits Cincinnati for MLS Town Hall

MLS commissioner Don Garber visited Cincinnati on Tuesday as a first step in assessing the city’s upstart USL club as a MLS expansion candidate. FC Cincinnati quickly became a relevant name in the expansion conversation after breaking multiple USL attendance records in their first season.

Major League Soccer’s chief executive set out on a full day of scouting activities after being greeted at Lunken airport by a raucous welcoming committee of FC Cincinnati supporters.

Don Garber Visits Cincinnati for MLS Town Hall

He met with the club’s ownership, the executive team and Cincinnati’s Mayor, John Cranley. Garber toured Nippert Stadium, the 92 year old venue on the campus of the University of Cincinnati where the team currently plays. He took a tour of the city’s urban core and toasted supporters groups at a pub in the Over The Rhine historic district.

The day ended with the trip’s marquee event, a public Town Hall meeting held at the Woodward Theatre. The event was hosted by Taylor Twellman, ESPN’s lead MLS and U.S. Men’s National Team analyst. Garber took the stage after opening remarks by team owner Carl Lindner III and general manager Jeff Berding.

The Soccer Don, with support from Twellman, Berding, and head coach John Harkes fielded a variety of questions related to expansion, his impressions of Cincinnati, and his assessment of the club’s first year performance in the USL.

The takeaway sentiment he conveyed was that FC Cincinnati is a legitimate contender for expansion, but there’s still work to do. As expected, the commissioner did not offer any specific timelines on FC Cincinnati’s candidacy for MLS. He also cited the need for MLS to clarify its expansion plan, and alluded to issues that are causing uncertainty to the overall picture (most notably the situation with the Miami bid).

“There is a lot that we need to figure out as a league (MLS) and there is a lot that still needs to be done here…to continue to build this club, to continue to grow its fanbase, to continue to figure out what its long term stadium solution is. I am very impressed by what’s happening here. Cincinnati deserves a MLS team. Every journey starts with a first step and that first step was today.”

FC Cincinnati finished third in the USL’s Eastern Conference but was eliminated from the playoffs in the first round by the Charleston Battery. John Harkes and his team will embark on their second USL campaign in March of 2017.

Photo Credit: Orange and Blue Press