MLS commissioner Don Garber (left) poses with FC Cincinnati team owner Carl Lindner III after announcing the team’s acceptance to the league.  (Sam Greene/The Cincinnati Enquirer via USA TODAY network)

CINCINNATI – This southern Ohio city was awarded a Major League Soccer team, commissioner Don Garber announced Tuesday.

The team will begin play in 2019.

The club, which will continue as FC Cincinnati when it joins MLS, will play at Nippert Stadium until the club’s 21,000-seat soccer stadium in the city’s West End neighborhood is completed in 2021.

FC Cincinnati’s managing owner is Carl H. Lindner III, the co-CEO of Cincinnati-based American Financial Group, which owns Great American Insurance. Among Lindner’s partners are Scott Farmer, Chairman and CEO of Cintas Corp., and George Joseph, President of Joseph Toyota and Principal of other automobile dealerships in Greater Cincinnati, as well as members of the Lindner family and other regional business and civic leaders.

“Major League Soccer is proud to introduce Cincinnati as our 26th team,” Garber said. “The rise of Cincinnati as a passionate soccer market in recent years, coinciding with the city’s growing economy and reputation as a top destination for young professionals makes it an ideal city for our growing league. We congratulate Carl Lindner and his partners, and also the soccer fans of Cincinnati, who have passionately supported FC Cincinnati in the USL.”

Since its first season in the United Soccer League in 2016, FC Cincinnati has excellent fan support, setting attendance records, which included three crowds of more than 30,000 during the club’s run to the semifinals of the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. During its first two USL seasons, the team has shattered league records for total attendance, average attendance and single-game attendance. The attendance of 32,250 for FC Cincinnati’s semifinal match against the Red Bulls is the second largest in Open Cup history and a club-record 35,061 fans attended a friendly against Crystal Palace in 2016.

In 2018, the club has surpassed 17,000 season tickets and has averaged almost 24,500 fans per game.

Front Row Soccer editor Michael Lewis has covered 13 World Cups (eight men, five women), seven Olympics and 25 MLS Cups. He has written about New York City FC, New York Cosmos, the New York Red Bulls and both U.S. national teams for Newsday and has penned a soccer history column for the Lewis, who has been honored by the Press Club of Long Island and National Soccer Coaches Association of America, is the former editor of He has written seven books about the beautiful game and has published ALIVE AND KICKING The incredible but true story of the Rochester Lancers. It is available at