FC Cincinnati to make announcement next week amid MLS expansion race

FC Cincinnati on Tuesday will make a "significant announcement" as the club inches closer to becoming the next expansion team in Major League Soccer.

A club release about an event next week did not go so far to confirm its purpose, but the announcement is widely expected to be the formal confirmation that FC Cincinnati has won the expansion slot to become MLS' 26th team. MLS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

MLS commissioner Don Garber and Cincinnati mayor John Cranley will be in attendance at the announcement at Rhinegeist Brewery beginning at 5:30 p.m., with a news conference to follow.

The league, which is looking to add four teams in two rounds of expansion, invited 12 cities to submit bids over a year ago. Nashville won the first slot in December, leaving Cincinnati, Detroit and Sacramento as finalists to vie for the other spot in the initial wave.

In January, MLS also formally awarded a long-expected expansion team to David Beckham's group in Miami in a separate process. Nashville and Miami both used similar language to Cincinnati's "significant announcement" ahead of their respective expansion confirmations.

Sports Illustrated reported that FC Cincinnati would start playing in MLS next season at its current USL home -- the University of Cincinnati's Nippert Stadium -- which would put it into the league before both Nashville and Miami, which are aiming for 2020 starts. Such a plan would once again give MLS an even number of teams, assuring that all clubs could play every weekend.

The club made major strides toward constructing a new stadium in recent months, winning approval from the Cincinnati City Council to cover $34.8 million in infrastructure costs for the team's otherwise privately financed 21,000-seat, $212.5 million venue in the West End neighborhood.

FC Cincinnati has been a major success story since joining the USL in 2016, averaging over 21,000 fans in 16 home games last season, and beating two MLS clubs in the U.S. Open Cup in front of more than 30,000 fans.

On April 7, the club set a USL record with 25,667 fans for its home opener against defending champion Louisville City. It has averaged just under 24,000 fans in its other three home league games this season.

The Sacramento Republic, a fellow USL club and expansion hopeful, appeared to accept that Cincinnati's bid was completed but vowed to keep pursuing its own slot.

"We remain laser-focused on our objective of bringing MLS to Sacramento and the news today does not deter our efforts nor does it hurt our chances of reaching our goal. Our bid to join MLS is alive and well," the club said in a statement.