An International Friendly is a chance for two cities to come together to celebrate cultures, and for one city’s supporters to see the best talent another nation has to offer. It’s a whole lot of fun. Tomorrow, FC Cincinnati welcomes RCD Espanyol of Barcelona, Spain. Espanyol will play as FCC’s 3rd international friendly opponent in their brief history as a club. If you have not yet purchased tickets you can do so here. FC Cincinnati is also offering a special edition scarf for the Friendly – only 500 are being sold.
FC Cincinnati has enjoyed a lot of success in their Friendlies. Previous encounters featured Valencia CF and Crystal Palace FC as opponents, respectively. Their match against Crystal Palace in their inaugural season drew Ohio’s largest soccer crowd of all time. 35,061 die-hard fans came out to witness the event at historic Nippert Stadium. I was there myself and I’d call it one of FCC’s greatest moments as a member of the United Soccer League.
But now, MLS is on the horizon, and we can expect for FC Cincinnati to be on the phone with even more world-renowned clubs for future Friendlies. Earlier this year, Los Angeles FC (the most recent MLS expansion team) invited Dortmund to the U.S. west coast. Young US Men’s National Team superstar Christian Pulisic saw quite a bit of playing time in that match. Just recently the San Jose Earthquakes hosted Manchester United at Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco. And not to forget, the MLS All-Stars will play Italian soccer giant Juventus in the Mercedes Benz Dome on August 1st.
FC Cincinnati begins their inaugural MLS season in 2019. This is a huge accomplishment for the city. So, a potential International Friendly should reflect the enormous occasion. That leaves the question, who should be their opponent? Here are my Top 5 picks.
Honorable mentions: Juventus, Dortmund, Crystal Palace, Arsenal, Manchester United
- Chelsea FC
Frankly, I was between historically great franchises Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester United on this one. Eden Hazard was my deciding factor.
- FC Barcelona
For one reason or another FC Cincinnati has gone to Spain back-to-back for their 2017 and 2018 International Friendly opponents. While both RCD Espanyol and Valencia CF are top contenders in La Liga, the real heavyweights are Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. Between the two, Barcelona has to receive the nod.
The opportunity to watch Lionel Messi play during the twilight of his career is once in a lifetime. And Messi is far from the only superstar gracing Camp Nou week after week. World Cup winner Samuel Umtiti, Uruguayan hero Luis Suarez, and Shakira’s husband Gerard Piqué are just a few of the other big names. Overall, Barcelona is one of the most recognizable franchises in the world. To kick off our MLS campaign against them would make for a can’t miss match.
- Liverpool FC
Similar to the city of Cincinnati, Liverpool FC is undergoing a bit of a renaissance. Years of waiting turned into a Cinderella run to the 2017-18 Champions League Final. Their heartbreak loss only revealed a serious contender in the Premier League moving forward. Mohamed Salah has cemented himself as an international icon. And now, he is under serious consideration to be named the best player in the world. They’ve also recently signed goalkeeper great Alisson from AS Roma. The team is on the verge of becoming a European leader. FC Cincinnati could be in store for a magical moment against one of England’s most respected teams should this dream match occur.
- Manchester City FC
Unfortunately for Liverpool, they play in the same league as Manchester City. After playing second fiddle to Manchester United for decades, the beast finally awoke, and City has now won the Premier League 3 of the past 7 years. Their most recent crowning came after a dominating 2017-18 campaign. Not to forget, their roster is absolutely stacked with superstars from around the world. Sterling, Agüero, De Bruyne, Silva… I’m sure you’ve heard at least one of their names headlining a match in the 2018 World Cup.
The bottom line is that Manchester City, barring those two teams from La Liga, has been one of, if not the greatest overall squad on the European continent in recent memory. And as it turns out, FC Cincinnati was previously reported to have expressed interest in attracting them to the Queen City. Therefore, we know the front office already has their eyes on the English giant. Time will tell if their interest becomes a legitimate relationship.
- FC Bayern Munich
Bayern Munich should be all Cincinnatian’s number one choice for our first International Friendly opponent when we enter Major League Soccer. Their home of Munich, Germany is Cincinnati’s sister city. Their stadium, the Allianz Arena, was the inspiration for FCC’s original MLS stadium design. This time next year FC Cincinnati will stand for Fussball Club Cincinnati to honor our German blood. There are so many reasons that point us to Bayern. It just feels right.
And beyond the personal connections, let’s not forget Bayern is a breathtaking powerhouse to watch play as well. They’ve dominated the Bundesliga, winning the title the past 6 years. They’re a regular contender in the Champions League. They’ve consistently supplied the German National team with ammunition in the form of players. The German’s won the 2014 World Cup if you’ve forgotten. And Bayern’s crest is known throughout the soccer landscape – Cincinnati seems to have a hankering for their Bavarian diamonds, specifically.
MLS also made headlines with the German club. Bayern recently signed (now former) Vancouver Whitecaps prodigy Alphonso Davies to a league record transfer deal. This provides all MLS supporters with a reason to watch the match should it be televised if they didn’t have one already.
At the end of the day, I can’t think of a more perfect opponent to begin our journey in MLS alongside of. Bayern Munich is like an old relative turned mentor. Their presence would grace the city with a reminder of what our ancient roots look like. They’d be a welcomed friend, because they’re more like family. For all of these reasons, my vote goes to the Germans.
Do you agree with my list? If not, tell me yours in the comments below. Thanks for reading!
Messi Header Photo
Chelsea FC Photo
FC Barcelona Photo
Liverpool FC Photo
Manchester City FC Photo
Bayern Munich Photo