Cincinnati’s Wooing of World Cup Bigwigs Bookended by FC Cincinnati’s Week of Heartbreak

As Cincinnati vies for a 2026 men’s World Cup match at Paul Brown Stadium, FCC continues to struggle.

There was much ado in the world of soccer in Cincinnati over the past week, so let’s get right into it…


Cincinnati received some outside help to put the city’s best foot forward to win over World Cup officials last Friday. Local and state officials from the tri-state area, in addition to business and community leaders, welcomed a delegation from FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, as well representatives from U.S. Soccer, last Friday in an attempt to secure a 2026 men’s World Cup match at Paul Brown Stadium. The 2026 World Cup will be jointly hosted by the United States, Mexico and Canada, but 11 of the 16 host venues are expected to be based in America.

Cincinnati’s delegation touted FC Cincinnati’s pristine facilities, the walkability of downtown and the city’s central location in the U.S. to counter concerns about public transit and hotel availability. Paul Brown Stadium is one of 16 other U.S. sites in contention. A few of the bigger cities will be no-brainer picks by FIFA—AT&T Stadium, the home of the Dallas Cowboys, and Los Angeles’ Rose Bowl or SoFi Stadium (where the NFL’s Rams and Chargers play), for instance—and Cincinnati is undoubtedly on the back half of the pecking order. The Queen City’s two main rivals for selection will likely be Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium (home of the NFL’s Chiefs) and Nashville’s Nissan Stadium (home to the NFL’s Titans and Nashville SC).

I’d wager either Cincinnati, Kansas City, or Nashville is selected, with the other two left with the consolation prize of either hosting a friendly in the run-up to the World Cup or serving as a home base for one of the qualifying national teams.

Speaking of Nashville, FC Cincinnati faces off against Music City’s soccer sons tonight. With the Orange and Blue losers of nine successive matches and needing a miracle not to finish with the fewest points in MLS for the third straight year, the two sides serve as the opposite sides of a coin in terms of successfully migrating a team from the United Soccer League to MLS. Nashville, sitting third in the East a year after reaching the East semifinals in its inaugural MLS campaign, has quickly become a model MLS franchise. Cincinnati’s struggles are well-documented on these pages, with the club now on its third General Manager and seeking its fourth full-time head coach since its first MLS match in March 2019.

Following a crushing, last-second midweek defeat to Chicago, FC Cincinnati fell flat in Miami on Saturday night. The Orange and Blue yielded yet another early goal against Inter Miami, only to answer with Brandon Vazquez maintaining his pristine form by equalizing in the 21st minute. FCC hung tough until about midway through the second half, when the hosts scored three times in 16 minutes to turn a 2-1 advantage into a 5-1 victory. The final margin was the largest ever for Miami, which also scored five goals for the first time in its brief MLS history.

There was no home crowd to aid Cincinnati in Miami, as there was a week ago. I was on hand for the 4-3 kick-to-the-you-know-where loss to Chicago. The Fire burned bright early, scoring twice on two spilled Przemysław Tytoń stops—the latter being particularly egregious—before 20 minutes passed on the game clock. If it weren’t for The Bailey’s unbridled enthusiasm, TQL Stadium could’ve passed for a morgue.

One doesn’t require a psychology degree to forecast what would happen next: fight or flight. FC Cincinnati was either going to lose this match by three or four goals, or the lads would clean up their act and make a game of it. Fortunately for the paid customers, the Orange and Blue selected the latter option.

Lucho Acosta pulled a goal back in the 28th minute, tapping in a headed pass from Vazquez, who had the best game of his FCC career. Vazquez notched his second goal of the season in the 36th minute on a brilliant effort. With new General Manager Chris Albright being interviewed over the television broadcast, the 23-year-old forward reeled in a well-placed ball from Ronald Matarrita that traveled over half the pitch, settled calmly with his right foot, and then nutmegged 17-year-old Chicago goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina to level the score. Matarrita and Vazquez nearly connected for a goal in the sixth minute when Vazquez redirected a lovely pass from Matarrita that Slonina got a hand and flipped over the bar in a save that was more luck than skill. Vazquez also slotted in a nice ball to an unmarked Brenner in front of the Chicago net early in the second half, but the Brazilian striker flubbed the chance.

However, Joe Gyau’s needless foul led to a free kick score by Chicago in the 71st minute. Tyler Blackett’s first FC Cincinnati goal in the 91st minute ignited a roar that surely could have been heard from The Banks, with the home fans thinking the long losing streak had reached its conclusion. But, since FC Cincinnati insists on not having nice things, heartbreak was the final verdict via the wildly impressive game-winning missile by Luka Stojanović. The score brought interim head coach Tyrone Marshall to his knees, his face twisted with disappointment, disgust and disbelief. FCC had scored at least three goals for the first time in three months, and still found a way to lose.

Such was a packed week for soccer in Cincinnati. Unfortunately, the hope for the future, as of right now, lies off the field, with the World Cup and the tricks Albright may have up his sleeve during the winter. The on-field product remains an unmitigated disaster.

Grant Freking writes FC Cincinnati coverage for Cincinnati Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at @GrantFreking.

Facebook Comments