The crowd of 30,160 at Nippert Stadium to watch FC Cincinnati upset the Columbus Crew shattered the Modern Era attendance record for a non-Final. Photo: FC Cincinnati
FC Cincinnati went on a historic run during the 2017 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, knocking off multiple Major League Soccer clubs and breaking records along the way to a Semifinal appearance. Despite losing to the New York Red Bulls in the Semifinals, Cincinnati attracted the second-largest crowd to ever witness a US Open Cup game in the tournament’s 104-year history, trailing only the 2011 Final hosted by the Seattle Sounders FC (35,615).
FC Cincinnati also had a Modern Era record 584-minute scoreless streak and with a dramatic penalty kick upset over the Chicago Fire on national TV (ESPN) launched FCC into the national conversation, and was a big boost in their continued push to be a future MLS expansion team.
Given the rousing success, it came as a surprise when FCC announced they would hold their first 2018 US Open Cup game at Gettler Stadium. The soccer stadium for the University of Cincinnati Bearcats which features a standard capacity of just 1,400, though temporary seating will bring capacity for this match up to 2,250. FCC matches are typically held at UC’s Nippert Stadium, where the football team also plays. Currently, tickets are on sale only to FCC season ticket holders, who number more than 10,000.
“We wanted to hold the first [US Open Cup] game in a more intimate setting. We had a preseason game at Gettler against Nashville, and it was a unique setting for fans,” said Kevin Butler, Chief Branding Officer for FCC. “Our first round games are typically at five or six thousand people. Historically we haven’t filled as much. As we move forward [in the Open Cup] we’ll look to moving back to Nippert.”
Last year, FCC hosted AFC Cleveland (NPSL) for their first game with an announced crowd of 12,790, the largest crowd in history for the second round of the Open Cup in the Modern Era. In 2016, their first year as a team, FCC hosted Indy Eleven for their first ever Open Cup game with an announced crowd of 8,668. Both games were held at Nippert.
“Five or six or even up to 10,000, to active the full stadium at Nippert, it makes more sense to have the game at Gettler,” Butler said.
While the smaller venue may lead to fewer people being able to get tickets, the experience will be one of a kind.
“We’re always concerned if people want to get tickets and can’t get tickets,” Butler said. “It’s like Metallica playing a small venue. It’s interesting to see it in an intimate setting. You’re right on top of the field.”
It is common practice for many professional teams, especially teams that don’t control their home stadium’s schedule, to play US Open Cup games at a alternate, and usually a smaller, venue. A prime example is the Seattle Sounders FC (MLS) who have only played seven tournament games at CenturyLink Field in their club history, while they have played 22 games at Starfire Soccer Complex in Tukwila, Wash. which has a capacity of 4,000 seats.
While they have only played six tournament home games in their team’s two-year history, FC Cincinnati boasts the highest average attendance (20,612) of any team that has participated in the US Open Cup in the Modern Era. With this match expected to have a sell-out of less than 3,000, that number will likely drop, but considering the fan support the team has enjoyed in their first two years, that number may not fall too much farther over time.
The match will be played on May 16 against the winner of Detroit City FC (NPSL) and the Michigan Bucks (PDL). Tickets for visiting fans have been set aside. Tickets for FCC season ticket holders are on sale now.
Columbus Crew SC beat reporter since 2013. Also a contributor to TheCup.us and Pro Soccer USA.