Soccer fans following successful run by FC Cincinnati-2 team that plays home matches at NKU

FC Cincinnati-2 forward Ben Stitz advances the ball between two defenders during last Sunday’s home match against New England Revolution-2 at the NKU soccer stadium. (Photo provided by FC Cincinnati)

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

Professional soccer has found a home in Northern Kentucky. 

A developmental team comprised of Major League Soccer players under contract with FC Cincinnati competes in the MLS Next Pro League and plays home matches at Northern Kentucky University’s soccer stadium. 

The FC Cincinnati-2 team takes a 10-4-1 record into its home match against New York City Football Club-2 on Sunday, but each of 1,000 of the free tickets have already been claimed. That’s how popular the young team of pro prospects has become among local soccer fans.

Dan McNally

“One of our goals is to spread the outreach of FC Cincinnati and we want it to grow here in the Northern Kentucky community,” said Dan McNally, vice president of soccer operations for the MLS club. 

“This was an opportunity to bring our second team here (to NKU) and showcase ourselves … and you can see for yourself we’re getting the attendance and getting the interest. It’s beautiful to see.”

McNally said FC Cincinnati-2 is in the process of “developing another agreement” with NKU to continue playing home matches at the campus stadium. Last Sunday, a record crowd of 645 fans turned out to watch the team’s 1-0 win over New England Revolution-2. 

When the players, who range in age from 19 to 24, came off the field, fans flocked around them to get autographs and take photos. Their accessibility in the compact NKU stadium venue appears to be giving the highly successful FC Cincinnati sports franchise an added boost in local popularity.    

FC Cincinnati is one of 27 soccer clubs with reserve teams in the MLS Next Pro League.

“This is a really positive partnership between FC Cincinnati and NKU,” said McNally, who grew up in England. “I think both sides look at this as a win-win, and we’re actively looking to grow that partnership.”

This is the third season for the Next Pro League. Each of the MLS franchises has a reserve team in the league along with two independent clubs. Each roster consists of 35 players that can include seven international players.

The teams are divided into two conferences and the final point standings will determine pairings for the Next Pro Championship Cup playoffs in October. FC-Cincinnati 2 is currently second in the 15-team Eastern Conference grouping.   

The primary goal of each Next Pro team is preparing players to advance to the next level. Last week, FC Cincinnati-2 defender Isiah Foster was called up to the franchise’s MLS team and was a late substitution during a 1-0 win at Dallas FC on Saturday.

FC Cincinnati-2 soccer fan poses for photo with midfielder and coach Alejandro Guido after Sunday’s home game at NKU. (Photo provided by FC Cincinnati)

No one likes to see players advance to the MLS level more than FC Cincinnati-2 coach Tyrone Marshall, who was recently named “Best Coach” in the Next Pro League midseason awards.  

“We’ve always said it’s a process, and the process is starting to show a little bit now,” Marshall said.

“Isiah made a (MLS) debut (Saturday), so they’re playing games here and getting the opportunity to go up. I think our group as a whole, and the club as a whole, we’re doing a fantastic job in terms of the (player) alignment.”

Tickets to FC Cincinnati-2 home games played on Sunday can be ordered online for free and there is no charge for parking at the NKU stadium. That makes it ideal for soccer fans, especially parents and their children, to watch talented young players striving to reach the MLS level.

In addition to acquiring players via the annual MLS SuperDraft, FC Cincinnati also has youth academy teams that serve as a feeder system. The leading scorer on the reserve team this season is Stefan Chirila, who came up through the academy.

“We believe in developing our own players and you see the guys who play for this (FC Cincinnati-2) team step up to the first team do really well because they know our way,” McNally said.  

FC Cincinnati-2 will be play four of its next five matches on the road, including a showdown with Eastern Conference leader Philadelphia Union-2 on Aug. 2. The entire schedule is on the team’s website. 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *