Starting out in the 3rd US soccer division, FC Cincinnati was like many other minor league soccer teams. However, president and founder Jeff Berding had a dream for this team. Hailing from a major league sports town on the rise, Berding’s goal was to bring Major League Soccer to Cincinnati….and the story gets absolutely wild from here. The team’s marketing manager Julia Wood sounds absolutely exhilarated as she tells the story of the teams rollercoaster ride.
Every year, we exceeded expectations. We broke all attendance records in the first year for the league that we were in.
Wood continues, “The second season, we moved from the third to the second division. We had the US Open Cup and made it to the semifinals in 2017. Year 3, we won the regular season championship for USL and it was announced that we would be moving into MLS (Major League Soccer). We announced that we’re going to MLS in May 2018 and we started to play pre-season in January 2019. We’ve had a steep learning curve, but we’ve been learning as quickly as we can.”
The fan experience
For the team, the big motivator is the fan experience. “It’s all about the fans,” Julia says. “We always say that we’re by the fans for the fans.”, and FCC has taken fan support to a whole new level. They partner with two formal councils that look after the spectator experience, a supporter council, and a fan council. The supporters represent the vocal fans that attend games with banners and drums while the fan council’s role is to explain what the team’s fanbase would like moving forward. “We experience the games as employees, not as fans, and so we want to know what sorts of things are we missing and what we are doing well.” The council essentially acts as a sounding board for the fans of the team. Their suggestions are taken in by team management.
Listening to the fans and making sure that we’re taking their opinions into consideration when making decisions is important to all of us.
Building for the future
The team’s management is currently busy, working on building the fan experience of the future—a modernized stadium. Technology is allowing the team to make a better experience for fans and this new stadium is providing an opportunity for Cincinnati to be on the cutting edge. They’re leveraging fan input to make these decisions, from what kind of food they want at the stadium, to the kinds of vendors and layout of the support section and actual jersey mockups. “We can’t make everybody happy all the time, but we try to make them happy since they’re coming in and spending their money with us.” Details can’t be released quite yet, but Julia knows this project will take advantage of all modern stadium technologies. “We want to be more technological, be more innovative and make things simpler.”
Whatever the future has in store for the team, there’s little doubt they will continue to enjoy success. With the new stadium opening in 2021, they have made a longterm promise to both their diehard fans and the people of Cincinnati.