CINCINNATI — FC Cincinnati announced Wednesday the Queen City Cup, a friendly wager with the Charlotte Independence to determine which "Queen City" has the better United Soccer League team.
The Queen City Cup Challenge – which Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley formally introduced in a news conference at FC Cincinnati’s Fourth Street office – is based solely on the outcome of the home-and-home series between the teams, which begins April 9 in FCC’s inaugural home game at Nippert Stadium and concludes in Charlotte on May 21.
The challenge will follow the standard 3-1-0 point system (win-loss-draw), with the tiebreaker being the most goals in the series. The winning team gets to keep the Queen City Cup trophy for the year, and the losing club’s mayor will serve lunch at a local homeless shelter wearing the opposing team’s jersey.
“Not to bring up bad memories, but a couple months ago, I did have to serve the homeless in a Pittsburgh Steelers jersey, so hopefully that won’t happen again,” Cranley said. “I have every confidence (Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts) will be wearing an FC Cincinnati jersey.”
It’s all in good fun, but just to add to the entertainment value for local fans, here’s a look at the top 9 reasons soccer – FC Cincinnati and otherwise – is better in Cincinnati.
1. The Fans
Well, let’s see: Without even playing a game, FC Cincinnati already has sold more than 4,400 season tickets for its inaugural season, and the club has three known supports groups: “The Pride,” “The Den” and “Die Innenstadt.” Charlotte averaged 1,800 fans per game in 14 home contests last season in its USL debut after replacing the Charlotte Eagles, who moved to the amateur Premier Development League (PDL). The Independence website lists two supporters groups. You do the math.
2. Nippert Stadium
FC Cincinnati will be playing in the newly renovated 45,000-seat Nippert Stadium at the University of Cincinnati. It will be tactfully transformed into a cozier atmosphere but will still have a (to be determined) capacity that will surpass the highest-attended USL games of past seasons, according to FC Cincinnati spokesperson Fumi Kimura. Meanwhile, the Independence plays at Ramblewood Stadium, a temporary soccer facility located at a county-owned complex with a capacity of 4,700 (4,250 seats, plus standing-room only), according to the club’s website.
3. John Harkes
No disrespect to Charlotte coach Mike Jeffries – who has more than 20 years of experience as a professional soccer coach and player, including 10 years on the MLS sidelines – but it’s safe to bet John Harkes is more recognizable among soccer fans. Harkes is a former U.S. Men’s National Team captain and member of the 1990 and 1994 World Cup teams, one of the first Major League Soccer players and a National Soccer Hall of Fame inductee. Jeffries had three USMNT caps, but the MLS hadn’t yet been formed during his pro playing days in 1984-88.
4. More Youth Players
Cincinnati ranks as the fourth-best city in the United States for most youth soccer players per capita. Charlotte, which has a population that is 2.7 times larger than that of Cincinnati, was farther down the list. On a broader scale, U.S. Soccer reports there were a total of 91,505 youth (ages 5-19) registered with Ohio’s two U.S. Youth Soccer state associations in 2013-14 (Ohio North and Ohio South), ranking 19th per capita as a state. North Carolina had 72,999 youth registered with its state soccer association, ranking 44th per capita as a state.
5. Even Studies Say So
Cincinnati ranks as No. 82 on WalletHub.com’s list of best soccer cities in America, while Charlotte checked in at No. 123. WalletHub compared the 172 most populated U.S. cities with at least one college or professional soccer team, then analyzed a total of 18 metrics, ranging from the minimum season-ticket price for a college game to stadium accessibility to number of championship wins.
6. We Watch More Soccer on TV
Through Team USA’s loss to Belgium to end its World Cup run in 2014, Cincinnati ranked among the top-10 metered markets, according to the Nielsen ratings as reported by Forbes.com. Cincinnati ranked eighth behind New York, Hartford/New Haven, Washington, D.C., Richmond, Boston, West Palm Beach and Baltimore. Columbus was tied for 10th, and Charlotte was nowhere to be found.
7. More Soccer Support in General
Ohio appears to be a more soccer-crazed state overall. Estately Blog came up with its own rankings of “most soccer enthused states,” and Ohio ranked No. 18, while North Carolina was 22nd. Among the notable metrics in that one, Ohio ranked 13th for most soccer-friendly pubs per capita, while North Carolina was 20th.
8. Better High School Talent
While North Carolina had just four National Soccer Coaches Association of America High School All-Americans last spring and fall (the state apparently has both fall and spring soccer), Ohio had 17 boys and girls who made the list last fall. It’s a small glimpse of the talent coming out of the two states, but a big difference even for a small sampling.
9. We Develop More MLS Players
According to a Major League Soccer report in 2013, there were 20 rostered players that season who had Ohio hometowns – fewer than only California (62) and Texas (28). No stats were available regarding how many North Carolina hometowns were listed, but it wasn’t in the top 3, like Ohio. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, 48 Ohio-born players have signed MLS contracts since the league’s inception in 1996, a number that doesn’t include those born elsewhere but who grew up in the state.
And… if you need a non-soccer related reason: We have Skyline Chili.