Football? No! We mean Futbol!
Over the summer, it was announced that Cincinnati would be getting a new soccer team- Futbol Club (FC) Cincinnati. This team will be a member of the United Soccer League, the second strongest U.S. men’s pro league. Home games will be held at University of Cincinnati’s newly renovated Nippert Stadium, with National Soccer Hall of Fame player John Harkes as head coach. With soccer being such a worldwide phenomenon, we at the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council felt it necessary to learn more about this exciting new addition to Cincinnati’s sports. We were able to contact Mr. Jeff Berding, President and General Manager of FC Cincinnati, for a phone interview on the global implications of a soccer team in Cincinnati.
Q: I know that you and other staff at FC Cincinnati have been proactive in looking to add international talent to the roster, with John Harkes and Ryan Martin recently going abroad. Has this effort been fruitful?
A: They scouted and met with a number of players over there, talking to coaches, watching games, watching practices, in one case conducting a tryout. There are several players that are on our player personnel list as strong prospects for our initial roster. So, we’ve not yet come to terms with any of those players, but we feel confident that we’ll have international players on our roster, and I think it’s a good likelihood that some of those international players will be the result that [John Harkes and Ryan Martin] just did in Europe.
Q: To go along with that question, have you learned of any useful ideas from the clubs abroad that you would like to bring to FC Cincinnati?
A: John [Harkes], having played in the English Premiere League, a lot of the coaches over there are in some cases his coaches or rival coaches, in some cases his teammates or friends from when he played in England. He did go to some training sessions to watch how they run their training sessions. There were conversations about potential partnerships between their clubs and FC Cincinnati. It was a very fruitful trip in terms of building foundations that we can leverage as we build our franchise here in Cincinnati.
Q: With Cincinnati’s strong German heritage, has any effort been made to reach out to German football clubs for potential partnerships and relationship building?
A: Yes. Munich is a sister city of Cincinnati, and so we have had some what I would call very initial outreach to [FC] Bayern Munich. It’s not a priority at the moment, we have so much on our plate, but definitely [FC] Bayern Munich is one of the top clubs in the world and we would love the opportunity to see if there is some way to partner together, even if it’s maybe we bring [FC] Bayern Munich over to play a friendly over at Nippert Stadium.
Q: With education being a major goal here at GCWAC, what has FC Cincinnati done or is planning to do to reach out to the youth in our area with a passion for soccer?
A: Cincinnati has over 50,000 youth soccer players in the region, among rec programs and select. We have already been meeting with the heads of those clubs and programs. We will be sending them an opportunity for all of the families in those organizations to buy tickets to our games, and then for every dollar that is generated in ticket sales through those links, those efforts, we’re going to give them 20¢ back as a donation to the club. For all these clubs, fundraising is a big component, and most of these programs are not for profit. For them to raise 20% of dollar spent per ticket as a donation to their club is a great opportunity that they’re very excited about.
Q: What makes Cincinnati a prime location for a football club?
A: Certainly the number of youth players suggests that soccer is a big sport. Obviously it’s a growing sport, and the popularity among millennials and international populations. Cincinnati has a growing population in those two areas, and so I think Cincinnati is on the rise. I think that soccer is on the rise, and that the timing is such a great fit.
Q: Do you think that the popularity of European players such as Beckham and Pirlo has helped gain more attention for U.S. soccer, and do you think that adding European talent will help not only FC Cincinnati become internationally recognized, but the City of Cincinnati as well?
A: One hundred percent, absolutely. We have great companies with international presence; the largest consumer products company in the world, Procter and Gamble, the largest grocery in the world with Kroger, and companies like Cintas and Great American Insurance. I think being able to have FC Cincinnati be a part of our city’s brand and selling the fact that Cincinnati is a very sophisticated city, and has a lot of assets both on the culture with the museums and Broadway series as well as sports (Reds, Bengals), but also soccer. Soccer is the world’s sport, so the opportunity to have soccer be one of our jewels in the crown we think is a great selling point for Cincinnati.
Q: We heard Chad Ochocinco wanted to try out? Did he actually register for open tryouts?
A: He did not. We reached out and said to him that if he’s serious, he should try out. I know Chad pretty well from my years at the Bengals, he’s a friend. But, I think he was just having some fun.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to say to our readers about FC Cincinnati?
A: We would just encourage them to be supportive. We think, again, soccer is the world’s sport and we want to put Cincinnati even further on the map as an international destination, international city for tourism, for cultural exchanges, for companies to come here for their American headquarters, people to come here to go to college at our universities, and so we think soccer just helps it as an attraction. If people support that vision, we hope they would come out and take in the games. We think we’ll give them a very exciting product on the field. And with John Harkes, our coach, we can build this thing together.
We want to thank Mr. Berding for speaking with us. We can’t wait for the 2016 season to begin! To learn more about FC Cincinnati, or to purchase season tickets, click here.
Written by: Danielle Ott, GCWAC intern
Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council does not own or claim to own these photos.