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Ohio cities Cincinnati, Columbus on opposite paths of MLS's future

Ohio cities Cincinnati, Columbus on opposite paths of MLS's future
From ESPN - December 2, 2017

Political and business leaders in Cincinnati are pushing toward their goal of scoring a Major League Soccer franchise, while in Ohio's capital city, soccer supporters are on defense.

In a few years, Ohio could have two MLS teams. Or still just one.

Or nil.

The 22-year-old league's growth plan got shaken when the owner of the Columbus Crew, one of its 10 original teams, announced in October he could seek to move the team to Austin, Texas, if Columbus ca not come up with a new stadium in a downtown location.

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther has expressed frustration with lack of commitment from the league and Crew owner Andrew Precourt to keeping the team in his city.

"Great American cities do not get into bidding wars over sports teams to benefit private owners," he said in a joint statement with the head of the Columbus Partnership group after a Nov. 15 meeting with Precourt and MLS commissioner Don Garber. The statement called the situation "heartbreaking" for Crew fans after years of "unwavering support."

Ginther is a Democrat, as is his Cincinnati counterpart John Cranley, cheerleading the effort to land an MLS franchise in a city that has embraced its United Soccer League FC Cincinnati with record-breaking attendance figures for the second-division league.

Cranley predicted at a city council session on Monday that supporting the expansion bid will prove to be "a historic no-brainer," citing league growth around the world's most popular sport.

Cincinnati officials on Wednesday committed to funding of some $36 million for road and other infrastructure improvements to support a proposed new soccer stadium for FC Cincinnati, which has been playing home games in the University of Cincinnati football stadium. Hamilton County commissioners Wednesday agreed to $15 million for a parking garage.

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