CINCINNATI – Fans of Cincinnati's new professional soccer team broke a league record Saturday night.
A crowd of 20,497 attended their match against Louisville City FC at Nippert Stadium, setting a new USL regular season attendance record, the club announced.
“The crowd was absolutely incredible,” coach John Harkes said. “The fans and the families that are here clearly shows that Cincinnati is easily ready for this market for soccer. The numbers that turned out tonight, they make a huge difference and I hope they can sustain it.”
Tonight's announced attendance... pic.twitter.com/1epD71yR79
— FC Cincinnati (@fccincinnati) April 17, 2016
Sacramento Republic FC set the previous record of 20,231.
Cincinnati set the record at what was just their second official home game. A week earlier, 14,658 fans attended their inaugural season opener.
The record could be a big deal for the fledgling club, which its managers have said has eyes set on being considered for Major League Soccer – the top U.S. soccer league – one day.
“We are thrilled to be in the USL, but certainly, as the MLS expands down the road, we would like to be in the conversation,” club President and General Manager Jeff Berding previously said. “Hopefully, we will have been successful enough at the box office and on the pitch that we would be a strong candidate, but ultimately, that’s outside of our hands. The MLS decides that.”
Currently, FC Cincinnati is a member of the USL, which averaged 3,332 fans at its games last year. MLS teams averaged 21,546 fans. Berding previously said they hoped to draw 10,000 fans to their games this season.
Whether fans will stick with FC Cincinnati through a whole season – including losses like Saturday’s, 3-2 – remains to be seen, but players said the amped-up crowd provided a boost for them so far.
“I think it’s two games in a row now that we have had a fantastic crowd, that we get a goal at the beginning,” defender Austin Berry said.