FC Cincinnati submits application to join Major League Soccer

CINCINNATI -- Encouraged by a first season that broke league attendance records, FC Cincinnati is shooting for the biggest goal in American soccer - submitting an application to join Major League Soccer.

The club tweeted the news Tuesday morning, with a photo of a hefty application document:

Jeff Berding, President of FC Cincinnati, said the Queen City is "the most proven city" of those that are vying for four expansion slots.

“We showed that in our first year. We averaged over 17,000 fans a game. That's more than five MLS teams," Berding said. "This week we think we’ll be at 20,000 with all the great fans we have.”

Fans are also optimistic and proud of their club.

“Bigger and better in every single way,” said Max Ellerbe of Pride FC Cincinnati.

“We’ve been breaking records left and right - breaking our own records over and over again. You can’t ignore that size of a crowd," Ellerbe said. "This thing is really working in this city. It’s something this city has been waiting a long time for.”

FC Cincinnati hosted MLS commissioner Don Garber late last year, when he praised the city's enthusiasm and support for the club -- and outlined what needs to happen for FC Cincinnati to move up. The club is currently a member of second-tier United Soccer League.

MLS said that 12 markets applied for the spots. The league said it will announce the first two new teams by the third quarter of next year.

RELATED: MLS expansion tracker

For its second season, the club has brought back 19 of the 26 players and added seven intriguing new pieces to put together what coach John Harkes believes is a championship-contending roster. He said the club could still add more players. The USL permits 30 on the roster, but Berding previously said he planned to stay right around 26, like last year.

FC Cincinnati will officially begin on-field preparations Wednesday, when training is set to begin at Wall-2-Wall Soccer in Mason. 

This story contains prior reporting by WCPO contributor Laurel Pfahler.

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