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FC Cincinnati hopes for assist from Dayton in joining MLS

FC Cincinnati, the second-year United Soccer League team, has a secret weapon it hopes will help it elevate to the country’s top professional rung, Major League Soccer: Dayton.

FC Cincinnati has set attendance records for the USL and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, in which it already upset two MLS teams, the Columbus Crew and Chicago Fire. An esteemed arena architect also has created plans for an eye-catching stadium.

But its weakest asset in the quest to join MLS is Cincinnati’s market size, team General Manager Jeff Berding recently told team season-ticket holders.

Major League Soccer, which has 22 teams and is considering adding others from among 12 suitors now under consideration, wants cities that can help grow the league’s base of fans.

“This is the one where we struggle a little bit, and there’s nothing we can do about it,” Berding said. “When you look at the TV markets, here’s Cincinnati, about the 36th Nielsen market in the United States …. The 11 other cities in MLS expansion are all bigger media markets.

“We try to make the point: Combine (us) with Dayton — because between West Chester and Springboro there’s not a whole lot left — and that makes us the 21st market. Hey, if Cleveland can claim Akron/Canton, we can claim Dayton, right?”

There is some precedent in sports for such a credit: The National Football League gives the Bengals a credit for Dayton as a secondary television market.

Nielsen ranks Cincinnati the 36th largest television market, with 863,800 TV homes and 0.75 percent of the country’s population. Dayton is 64th, with 466,040 and 0.4 percent of…

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