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Paul King - Becoming Royalty

Started on 10 June 2019 by TheLFCFan
Latest Reply on 2 October 2019 by ScottT

Breaking Records and Making Dreams Come True

FC Cincinnati was officially born August 12th 2015 when Carl Linders III officially founded the club and opened its doors. Team President and General Manager Jeff Berding was hired in later on in August of that year and I was hired as the first manager of FC Cincinnati on December 1st 2015. With three key pieces in place, the main piece was still needed. A team. We had fixtures arranged for February 21st kicking of the clubs history away to Icelandic side KR Reykjavic, before our first league fixture away to Charleston Battery on March 26th 2016.

With just under four months before our competitive debut, an open trial was offered with hundreds of players turning out. Along with this we made a few deals and not before to long we had a squad. A roster of 26 players was finalized for that first season in 2016 and we would begin the clubs first ever pre season in a joyous mood. Joining the incoming players was some additional staff members which began making the club feel a lot more of just that….a club.

The first batch of players in FC Cincinnati's history

The focus was on younger players who’d be able to impact the league, big names would have been welcomed obviously, however, in playing in a league people in our home nation hadn’t even heard of, gaining worldwide superstars proved a tad too difficult. But it didn’t matter.

A promising pre season in which we saw three wins and two draws in our five pre-season games, even defeating MLS side New York City FC 2-1, gave us confidence going into the season. Our first competitive match ended as an unfortunate 1-0 loss away from home. However, the clubs first home game was one of many record breaking moments we had in our inaugural season.

Louisville City FC visited us in our long awaited first ever competitive home game on April 16th 2016. Despite a 3-2 loss, the day will forever be remembered, an insane attendance of 20,497 spectators took to the stands at Nippert Stadium breaking a USL record. For a second tier side, in any division throughout the world this was a massive amount of people, even more so for a club playing in just its fourth competitive fixture.

The support from the word go was extraordinary. For a city and state which had so much love towards ‘true American sports’ such as American Football and Baseball, we were blown away. But the record continued to break. May 14th 2016 saw 23,375 in attendance for our game against Pittsburgh Riverhounds. This was then broken when 24,376 attended our fixture against Orlando B on September 17th 2016, before our first ever playoff match on October 2nd 2016 saw 30,187 people in the 40,000 seater stadium.

Despite losing the match 2-1, the attendance broke the playoff and single game attendance record, a feat we are unbelievably proud of. This wasn’t the first time we broke 30,000 spectators though as in July we hosted a friendly against Crystal Palace in which 35,061 attended breaking the record in Ohio. This meant we were selling more tickets than an MLS club. Those who were looking at those stats for the first time would be mistaken to believe it was just the first season and people soon faded, however, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Records continued to break and we would continuously sell out 25,000+ tickets for our games.

This allowed us to tick off aim number four on our initial five year plan, yet it was achieved inside two years. We had done everything we wanted to achieve all the way through so far, whilst doing it at a pace we couldn’t of even imagined! The city was going football mad, attendances were being seen that was thousands over what the league had seen before. The team were also doing well, finishing in the playoffs in our first two seasons and the club were at a high.

But it was about to get even better.

Our loss to Louisville City FC on May 26th 2018 was made to feel irrelevant when later that day it was announced that FC Cincinnati would become an official expansion side and join the MLS in 2019.

The day had finally arrived, we had done it. Carl, Jeff and I’s Five Year Plan was accomplished in just 3 years time!

FC Cincinnati were an MLS team.


BigMaguire: Yes, the expansion is of major importance to the continued growth and it will be great to be apart of it.
Scott:Talks went very well! Lets see what Paul can do with the team!
Brilliant news. I can't wait to see how the team operates to bring the side up to standard for their debut season in the MLS. Paul has a tricky, but exciting, job on his hands.
Nice update Seb, cool to see the 5 year plan paid off so well and that you were a major part in it. Look forward to seeing where this takes FC Cincinnati!
The rising wave of popularity of 'soccer' in America is something demonstrated in your striving to become an MLS team. Really love what your plan is over in the US of A as we normally see European stories. Excited to see where we go now!
MLS baby! Time for the King to kick on!

Understanding Major League Soccer

The morning of September 30th 2018 was one of significance for me and everyone involved in the club taking its next jump. Yesterday was our final regular season match at home before our jump into the MLS. As always the fans came in their thousands breaking another attendance record with 31,478 watching us beat Indy Eleven 3-0. It was a fitting end to a quite frankly, magical three years since the clubs formation.

But this morning wasn’t to focus on all the good we had done up to this point, today was about taking that next step and setting out what was to come. In taking the step up to the MLS we also had the added pressures of a highly complicated salary cap as well as the multiple drafts that take place throughout the year. Therefore, Carl Jeff myself and newly appointed General Manager Gerard Nijkamp started our meeting understanding every aspect of the league. Jeff, who had done an incredible job as General Manager throughout the past three years decided with the step up it would be best for the club for him to focus solely on being the Teams President, something me and Carl both agreed on.

The League Structure

The league is divided into two sections, namely the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference. Upon our inclusion to the MLS, starting next season, there is a total of 24 sides split evenly as 12 a piece into the East and the West.

Conferences see each side play against each other at least twice, once at home and once away, making up 22 fixtures. There will also be games outside of the conferences with Eastern Conference sides facing Western Conference sides at least once. A total of 34 games will be played.

Upon the completion of the regular season, the teams atop of the East and Western Conferences are named as the “Supporters Shield” winners, effectively meaning they have won the Conference. There will also be an overall table combining the conferences giving an overall Supporters Shield winner. The league then moves on to the playoffs something that is adored in American sports with all major sports having a playoff system in some way or another.

The winners and runners up in each conference throughout the regular season, automatically qualify for the Conference semi-finals. Teams who finished 3rd-6th then play in the wildcard fixtures or the Conference quarter-finals. The team who finished 3rd plays at home against 6th whilst 4th placed play against 5th also at home. The winners of these matches then move on to the semi-finals of the conference to face the regular season winners and runner ups.

The lower seeded side who wins the Conference quarter-finals will play the regular season winners whilst the higher seed will face the runners up away. The Conference final is played between the semi-finals winners in which the two Conference winners are finalized. These two sides then proceed to play in the MLS Final with the winner being crowned as the MLS Champions.

With an understanding of the league system and what we would need to achieve to end up as MLS Champions, our next focus was the Salary Cap and Player Registration.

Squad Registration

Player registration is divided into seven main category’s, Each group have specific rules in play that allow them to qualify whilst also specifying what each group can be paid and the amount of players each group can have.
Designated Player- Maximum Amount = 3
International Player- Maximum Amount = 8
Non-Young Designated Player- Maximum Amount = 2
Off Budget Players- Maximum Amount = 10
Reserve Players- Maximum Amount = 6
Non-Reserve Off-Budget Players- Maximum Amount = 4
Non-Homegrown Reserve Players- Maximum Amount= 4

Total Squad - Maximum Amount= 30.

Salary Cap

The Salary Cap is another American implemented idea to the sport which makes the MLS one of the most unique leagues in the world. Again players are labelled under specific titles to allow a certain salary.

Senior Player- Maximum Allowed = $67,500
Reserve Player-Maximum Allowed =$54,500
24 years or older Designated Player – Maximum Allowed = $505,000 p/a towards salary cap no matter of actual wage.
24 years or older signed mid-season- Maximum Allowed = $253,000 p/a towards salary cap.
21-23 year old Designated Player-Maximum Allowed= $200,000
20 years old or younger Designated Player- Maximum allowed =$150,000
Generation Adidas Players – Don’t count towards budget- Count to off budget players.

Total Salary Cap = $4,035,000 Per Annum.

This salary cap will restrict us in areas of improving the squad but with the aims of the club to be sustainable, this shouldn’t be to much of an impact on us.

The Drafts

The MLS holds three drafts namely the Superdraft, the Expansion Draft and the Re-entry draft, with each draft playing a particular role.

The Superdraft takes place on an annual basis, with four rounds with each side getting a single pick per round. College players are to be drafted by the teams with rankings deciding where they will pick, with the worst side picking first.

The Expansion Draft will be of major importance to us this year as it gives us the opportunity to select 5 players from the league from different clubs in order for us to form a foundation to start our MLS careers off.

The Re-entry draft is the final draft and sees players who haven’t had their contracts renewed be drafted by clubs. Three rounds of this occurs throughout the night and allows for players on expiring contracts to get a fresh start.

After a day of understanding the league, we finally felt confident enough in what we were stepping in to. It was bound to be a struggle, nobody was sure what to expect of us, but we ready for anything.


Scott: The squad needs a lot of improvement from its current stage as it is nowhere close to being MLS ready. As you said, the rebuild will be very exciting and hopefully Paul can do a good job at it!
BigMaguire: The plan has paid off and the club have exceeded all expectations in growing so quickly. Hopefully this can be continued!
Jack: American 'Soccer' is a sport that is seeing a large amount of growth over the last decade or so in America. Might be a bit ambitious but maybe one day they will finally learn its proper name ;)
Justice: USA...USA...USA
The MLS can be difficult to understand, but we will learn together. :P
TheLFCFan's avatar Group TheLFCFan
3 yearsEdited

Building A Major League Soccer Team

Our short history as a professional side had managed to exceed all of our expectations with becoming an MLS franchise being the icing on top of the cake. Inside just 3 years we were a team who’d be playing in arguably North Americas biggest league, something that has to be credited to the support we had received.

Continuously having over 20,000 fans support throughout our few years in the USL with the leagues attendance records being broken seemingly every week. The club acknowledged that our performances in the league (finishing 3rd in 2016 and 6th in 2017) weren’t the reason behind our rise. The sheer level of support we have received is something the MLS expansion committee were unable to look past.

Attendances are a good indicator of the growth of the game in America and the MLS. Initially the league struggled. In its first season a total of 2,785,001 people attended Major League Soccer games, with an average across its clubs being 17,406 per game. This slowly declined when it hit an all time low in 2002 with a total attendance of 2,215,019 across all games. This decline was a worry, only growing once in terms of attendances from the year before in the six years of its introduction in 1999.

But this was soon to change, from 2005 the leagues growth was continuous, hitting an all time high of 8,553,245 total attendance with an average of 21,875 per game per club. This could be down partly to MLS’ first ‘global star’ Freddy Adu. The now infamous failure was just 14 years old when he made his debut the season before and was thrusted into global limelight, with the praise and comparison from and to some of the games greats. With us averaging over 25,000 per game in the USL it was clear why the MLS were determined to make us a part of the league.

We knew we had the support, we knew we had the backing, now we just had to make it count. There were three main areas we could use to build up a squad capable of taking the step up to the league. Results in the USL wouldn’t suffice here, the quality difference was huge. Orlando City, who finished bottom of the Eastern Conference were led by Nani, former Manchester United and Portugal winger, showing the talent the league was starting to attract. The Superdraft, transfers/trades and the expansion draft would be needed in order for us to grow a roster capable of winning games in the league.

The Superdraft would only take place towards the middle of January. This meant our initial focus would be on building through free agency, transfers, trades and the expansion draft which would occur on December 18th. Evaluating the squad it was clear we had some decent players with Justin Hoyte and Emmanuel Ledesma being the biggest names. Hoyte had started his career in England for Arsenal playing for many years at the club. Having never quite made the impact required he slipped down the English leagues before finally joining us at the beginning of the season. Ledesma has travelled across the world playing in Italy for Genoa and England for Middlesbrough being his two bigger clubs. We knew these were good players, they weren’t however going to be the best players at a successful MLS club.

With that being said, we decided whilst the wait between the end of our season in September and the opening of the transfer window in December, we scoured the free transfer market. The amount of quality was low in supply in all honesty, however, we did hand trials to a number of players. Vincent Enyeama, Phillipe Senderos, Jonathon Spector, David Edgar and Diego Forlan were all given the opportunity to impress us.

Upon the completion of the trials, we decided to hand contract offers to both Jonathon Spector and Diego Forlan. Spector a 32 year old American capped 36 times by his nation, is a natural Right back who can also play as a centre back, defensive midfielder and central midfielder. Having started his career at Manchester United, he has played premier league football for Charlton Athletic and West Ham United, whilst also playing in England for Birmingham City. Having also played for Orlando City for two seasons, Spector offers the side experience in the MLS, something we greatly need.

Second signing of FC Cincinnati as an MLS club is that of 39 year old Diego Forlan. Forlan who has a total of 112 caps for Uruguay scoring 36 goals. Sitting third in both caps and goals for his nation, Forlan brings with him a wealth of experience, having previously played for some of Europe’s biggest teams including Manchester United, Villarreal, Atlético Madrid and Inter Milan. Forlans impact will stretch further than just on the pitch with his experience and professionalism being something we aim to exploit to help our younger talents.

Having assessed the free agent market we were also able to make some additions through the expansion draft. The draft allowed for us to select five players from clubs around the league with a maximum of one joining from a single club. The clubs could select a group of players that would not be available for selection and that saw our options limited.

We decided to target highly determined players whilst increasing our current experience levels in the squad. This saw us select Jimmy Medranda from Sporting Kansas City, Matt Turner from New England Revolution, Danny Wilson from Colorado Rapids, Rasmus Schuller from Minnesota and German Julian Gressel

Jimmy, a 24 year old left back from America, has played a key role in Sporting Kansas side in the past three years making 95 appearances for the side. He will currently play as backup to our left back Greg Garza.

Matt Turner will join the club as a second choice goalkeeper. The 24 year old had a successful year last season, playing in 35 games and conceding just 31 and kept 14 clean sheets for New England Revolution, who won the Eastern Conference this past year.

Our third pick was former Rangers, Liverpool and Hearts centre back, Danny Wilson. Still just 26, Danny was once a highly touted youngster who just hasn’t been able to see his full potential reached. Danny brings experience, having played for some of Britain’s biggest clubs and as a Scottish international, we believe the pick from Colorado Rapids, will be a great addition to the squad.

Rasums Schuller, a Finnish central midfielder brings with him even further experience. At the age of 27, Rasmus has 36 caps for his nation scoring a single goal in that time. Having spent the majority of his career in Finland winning multiple league titles with HJK. Moving to the MLS two seasons ago, joining Minnesota, he will be a key player in our midfield this year.

Our final pick would be 24 year old, German midfielder Julian Gressel from Atalanta United. Having been drafted to Atalanta in 2017, Gressel has been impressive in the MLS so far, scoring eight goals and creating five assists in 69 games. The young right winger will add some quality out wide for us for many years to come.

With these players all joining, our squad was finally taking shape, the transfer window officially opened on December 14th and even more excitingly the first MLS Superdraft in FC Cincinnati’s history would be taking place just a year later.

Excitement was starting to build around the city!


Scott: As I said in chat it's hard to understand let alone explain. But hopefully we will learn as we go!
Hopefully you can really build a MLS Force, and we can learn the rules lol
Justin Hoyte, Spector and Forlán. Some serious throwbacks in there. If Forlán can return to 2010 World Cup form you're onto a winner straight off the bat! Really great work so far with the building of the team and I'm certainly looking forward to the coming MLS season! (The first time I think I've ever said that)
Some tidy acquisitions, although some on the wrong side of thirty. The signing of Forlan should be good for merchandise sales, at least. Danny Wilson seems an astute signing given the hype he had when at Rangers, which prompted Liverpool to sign him. I'm sure he'll still have the quality to become a key player in your defence.
Plenty of experienced internationals there, no doubt the eyes of all will be on Forlan though! If he produces so much as 1% of the magic he did at the 2010 World Cup, you're on to a winner!

Ringing The Changes

I had worked with an incredible setup of staff over the years, throughout my days as Head Coach at the University of Cincinnati and throughout our short stint in the USL here at FC Cincinnati. Great people who wanted to work hard and dedicate themselves to making the players in our team better. Despite the relationships I built firstly at the University and the past couple of years at FC Cincinnati, we have taken a step up now. This meant the staff had to be improved upon.

Myself and team General Manager Gerard Nijkamp decided between ourselves to relieve the entire staff of their duties. The decision was certainly not made lightly, telling a friend that they were no longer needed and making them redundant is something nobody will enjoy doing, but it was necessary. Football management isn’t about making friends so when you do they have to come second to what is best for the club itself. The mutual terminations came to a total of $580,000, a considerable amount however, it has allowed us to improve the club drastically.


The first arrival to the club came in the form of my new assistant manager, a man who has a massive reputation throughout the game. Former Chelsea, Portsmouth, West Ham, Israel and Ghana manager, Avram Grant, has taken on the role as Assistant manager at FC Cincinnati. The 63 year old Israeli, comes in to the club with almost half a century's worth of experience, having taken his first role in 1972 (15 years before I was born) as Israeli side Hapoel Petah Tikva FC under 18s manager. Having managed some of the biggest clubs in England, managing at International level and also managing some of Israel (Maccabi Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa) and Serbia's (FK Partizan) biggest clubs, Grant should be able to guide me at times and help the club to becoming a major force in the MLS.

Next to join the club was a lot less of a household name as we bought in Jay Vidovich who joins as our new Head of Youth Development. The role is one of utmost importance to myself and the club as we have decided to focus on the youth and developing our own stars. This will ensure we are sustainable and won’t run into problems with salary cap and finances. Jay replaces Omar Cummings, a former Jamacian international, who will now move into a role as a coach.

Bixente Lizarazu joins the club as a former French international with an abundance of experience. Making 97 caps and starting in both the 1998 World Cup Final and 2000 European Championships Final in which France won both. Playing as a left back, Lizarazu played for Bordeaux, Athletic Bilbao, Marseille and Bayern Munich, featuring as a key player for all of his clubs. Having retired from football in 2006 this is Bixente’s first role as a coach and we are excited to see his impact on the team.

A key part of a club is having fit players and to ensure this we have hired Dave Tenney who has worked in various roles at Seattle Sounders and Sporting Kansas City. His experience in the MLS will be highly valuable to our backroom team who lack such. Dave will be an important member of the team and we will need his expertise to ensure we maintain a fit and healthy squad.

The final coach to join is former England under 23 player Keith Bertschin, who joins from Vanarama National League side Sohill Moors. Keith who is now 62 years old will focus on our attacking coaching and we are certain he will be able to get us firing on all cylinders throughout the coming seasons.


The scouting department has also been boosted with new Chief Scout, Erwin Vandenbergh joining the club. Vandenbergh adds to our former internationals to join the club as he scored 20 goals in 48 games for Belgium. Having great success domestically playing for Anderlecht, Genk, Lierse whilst also featuring for Lille in France, Vandenbergh won four Belgian First Divisions, two Belgian Supercups and a UEFA Cup (now UEFA Europa League). Having retired in 1994, Erwin has been a manager at multiple clubs since his retirement and this will be his first job as a scout.

Also joining the scouting department is former Barcelona and Bayern Munich defender and Swedish international, Patrik Andersson. Patrik won numerous honours as a player including a UEFA Champions League in 2001 with Bayern Munich, a year in which he was also named in the UEFA Team of the Year. Patrik was last employed as a scout at Manchester United, highlighting our ambitions to hire some of the best staff possible.


New Head Physio, Craig Devine a former rivals Physio in Columbus Crew, has also joined the club. The 51 year old American joins us and is a big upgrade on our former Head Physio, Aaron Powell.

Also joining Craig in the medical department is Rory Blevins, a 33 year old who has formerly worked at Houston Dynamos. Alongside Craig we hope Rory will be able to help any injured player get back up to full fitness quick as possible.

The incoming staff members undeniably strengthen us and I look forward to working with each member closely over the years to come. I am confident the arrivals will help us achieve all the goals we are setting ourselves and I look forward to our first Pre-season together starting on January 21st 2019.


I would just like to say sorry for the delay of this story due to my hard drive suddenly dying on me losing the files and save. I am very happy to be writing again and being able to continue this story and hopefully everyone will enjoy it along with me. Thank You.


BigMaguire: The rules will slowly but surely make more sense. The goal is to eventually achieve that but it is going to take a few years!
Jack: There is some right throwbacks there in particular Hoyte, had completely forgotten he existed before i saw him in the team. The additions have been nice so far, despite Forlan really getting on now, I am still confident he can produce in the MLS for me.
Scott: The good thing about the MLS is even when you are pushing the late 30s you can still normally produce. Although Forlan is now pushing 40 I still have faith he can provide some key moments for us. Wilson was a signing I was very happy with and getting him from the Expansion Draft was certainly a bonus. AT just 26 he will be starting at center back for years to come for me I believe.
Justice: The aim was to bring in a mix of youth and highly experienced players and I think we have achieved that for now. Forlan is someone I am excited to use, that's for sure.
Nice overhaul of the staff. Some experience appointments there. Goodluck and look forward to future updates.
Some useful additions to the non-playing staff. Every successful manager needs a solid and helpful base behind them.

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