Will FC Cincinnati have to cap season ticket sales?

(Photo Credits: Jamie Smed)

Right before the start of the new year, FC Cincinnati had one last big announcement up their sleeve. Even though it wasn't the MLS expansion bid that the fanbase has been waiting for, the club did announce that they reached their goal of 15,000 season tickets sold for the upcoming 2018 campaign.

While it is no surprise to the FC Cincinnati faithful that they reached this mark, they did it with three-and-a-half months to spare. This news has many supporters wondering if FCC can reach 20,000 season tickets sold. However, the real question that needs to be asked is this: Should FC Cincinnati cap season ticket sales? 

The answer to this question varies depending on what happens. Listed below are three plausible scenarios that could occur based on the news that Don Garber should be giving us soon.

Scenario 1: FC Cincinnati makes the MLS and begins play in a 21,000 seat soccer-specific stadium in 2020

After watching key Sacramento Republic FC partners Jed York and Meg Whitman disassociate themselves from the bid after Nashville was awarded an MLS franchise, FC Cincinnati has become the front-runners for the second MLS expansion slot. Additionally, FCC ownership in November agreed to privately fund a 21,000 seat stadium in Oakley. If you combine these two factors together, I believe that this is the most likely scenario out of the three.

The key to this scenario is that stadium can only hold 21,000 fans, and in theory, there should still be at least 15,000 season ticket holders made up from new and current members in 2020. This roughly leaves 6,000 empty seats currently for non-season ticket holders. In a 2016 report, the percentage of season ticket holders for Premier League teams ranged anywhere from 52% to 81%. In addition, many American sport executives agree that about 70 to 80 percent of a stadium's capacity should be made up of season ticket holders. 

After you do some math, if FC Cincinnati wanted to meet the high end of both scales (around 80%), it means that they should sell about 16,800 season tickets. The danger with selling too many season tickets is that it can alienate casual fans or fans that cannot afford to buy season tickets, but still want to attend as many games as possible. In order to not alienate any members of the fanbase in this scenario, it might be wise to cut season ticket sales at around 17,000 tickets, still leaving some single-game tickets available for purchase. 

Scenario 2: FC Cincinnati makes the MLS and begins play in a 26,000 seat soccer-specific stadium in 2020.

While the plan now is to build a 21,000 seat stadium in Oakley, the original blueprint called for the stadium to hold 26,000 fans of the blue and orange. Although it seems unlikely at this point, there is still a possibility that the new stadium could hold 26,000.

Since the difference in this scenario is that the new stadium can now hold 26,000 fans, it means that there is roughly 11,000 seats currently for non-season ticket holders. Once again, if FC Cincinnati wants to meet that 70 to 80 percent target, it means that they should sell around 18,000 to 21,000 season tickets. While still possible, in this scenario it would be less likely that FC Cincinnati would have to worry about cutting season ticket sales in the near future. 

Scenario 3: FC Cincinnati is not chosen for an MLS expansion team and continues to play at Nippert for the foreseeable future.

Even though this is not the ideal scenario for many FC Cincinnati supporters, it is one that still must be considered. As we learned throughout the U.S. Open Cup run in 2017, the current capacity for a soccer match at Nippert Stadium is around 33,000.

Doing the math, if FC Cincinnati wanted to meet the 70 to 80 percent season ticket holder threshold at Nippert, they would have to sell around 23,000 to 26,500 season tickets. These numbers show that if FC Cincinnati fails to land an expansion franchise this time around, there is no need to worry about capping the number of season tickets sold, at least for this season.

The moral of this story: If FC Cincinnati lands an MLS expansion franchise, you should buy your season tickets as soon as possible. There is a good chance that FC Cincinnati could sellout of season tickets, and if you don't act soon, instead of having season tickets, you could end up on a waiting list. 


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