Not Long Ago, Soccer Was a Tough Pitch in Cincinnati

April 10, 2018

Cincinnati Comets bumper sticker

Cincinnati has always had a strong interest in soccer at least in terms of participation, particularly at the youth level. However, getting people to come out and watch soccer was a challenge until FC Cincinnati showed up. Since the mid-70s, roughly a dozen teams, some indoor, some outdoor, have tried to gain a following here with none seeing the level of success being enjoyed by FC.

The Cincinnati Comets (ASL, 1972-1975)

The Comets were the area’s first foray into pro soccer, playing in the American Soccer League which was then the second tier of the sport in the U.S. behind the North American Soccer League (NASL). The Comets played their home games first at St. Xavier High School’s stadium, then Nippert Stadium for the 1973 campaign, and finally Trechter Stadium at what is now Cincinnati State for the rest of their existence. Radio personality Jim Scott became president and part owner during the 1974 season.

Old Trechter Stadium at then Cincinnati Tech

On the field, the Comets were a success, capturing the league title in 1972 and returning to the championship contest in 1973. For a while, the team was drawing crowds of around 1,000 fans.

In 1975, the NASL became interested in inviting the Comets to move up to that circuit. However, a group of investors from Michigan who could have helped make that leap became skittish due to the soft economy of the day. The Comets suspended operations after the 1975 season and never returned to the pitch.

The Cincinnati Kids (MISL, 1978)

In December of 1978, the Major Indoor Soccer League began play, and the Cincinnati Kids were one of its 6 charter members. Playing indoors on a pitch that followed the same configuration as a hockey rink, the MISL became quite popular in the 1980s, especially in Cleveland, Kansas City, and St. Louis.

Pete Rose kicks off the Kids season at the Nassau Coliseum in New York

The Kids, partially owned by Pete Rose, lasted only one season. They are probably more famous for being part of a storyline on an episode of WKRP in Cincinnati, where they are referred to as the "Skids", and in which Sparky Anderson hosts a talk show at the station. His first guest is a fictitious Kids player named Derek Doogle (starts at the 8:29 mark). Playing downtown at Riverfront Coliseum, the team drew about 3,100 fans in its only season.

The Cincinnati Cheetahs (USISL, 1992-1995)

Playing their home games at St. Xavier High School, the Cheetahs competed in the United States Interregional Soccer League, run by United Soccer Leagues based in Tampa, for two seasons. In their second, and final, season, they played in the USISL Pro league, which in 2015 was renamed the United Soccer League (USL) where FC Cincinnati currently competes.

The Cincinnati Leopards (W-League, 1995)

In 1995 United Soccer Leagues formed a women’s professional circuit called the W-League. The Cincinnati Leopards played only one season in that league.

The Cincinnati Silverbacks (NPSL, 1995-1998)

Cincinnati’s next pro soccer team was another indoor squad, the Silverbacks, who played in the National Professional Soccer League. The team had moved down I-75 from Dayton where they had been known as the Dynamo since 1987.

The Silverbacks played two seasons at the Cincinnati Gardens before moving downtown to The Crown (now US Bank Arena), along with the hockey Cyclones, for their final campaign. While they made the playoffs in their last two seasons, attendance was hurt by the lack of available weekend dates at The Crown, and the team folded in 1998.

The Cincinnati Riverhawks (USISL PDL, A-League, 1997-2003)

The Riverhawks began in 1997 playing in the USISL’s Player Development League (PDL), before being promoted to the A-League, the second tier of American soccer at the time. Their home pitch was Galbreath Field in Kings Mills, which was originally built as part of the College Football Hall of Fame complex. Poor play, resulting in several consecutive losing seasons, led to the team’s demise in 2003.

The Cincinnati Ladyhawks (W2-League, W-League, 2000-2006)

The Ladyhawks debuted in 2000 and played in the W-League’s developmental circuit, the W2, for 3 seasons, before moving up to the top level in 2003. Like their sibling club the Riverhawks, the Ladyhawks played at Galbreath Field but moved to Lakota West’s stadium when the men’s team folded in 2003. The Ladyhawks suspended operations after the 2006 season.

The Cincinnati Excite (AISL, 2004-2008)

Indoor soccer returned in 2004 in the form of the semi-pro Excite who played in the American Indoor Soccer League. The team won that league’s championship in 2006 and played their matches at the Tri-County Soccerplex.

The Cincinnati Kings (USL 2nd Division, USL PDL, 2005-2012)

The Cincinnati Kings first took the pitch in 2005 in the USL’s 2nd division, the 3rd level on the American Soccer Pyramid. In 2008, they moved down to the USL PDL, the 4th level, for their final 5 seasons. Their home field was the Town & Country Sports Complex in Wilder, KY.

The Cincinnati Saints (PASL, NPSL 2009-2015)

The Saints began as an indoor team in the Premier Arena Soccer League (PASL) in 2009, before moving to the Professional Arena Soccer League in 2013 with their home field being the Western Sports Mall in Western Hills. In 2014, the team also fielded an outdoor squad that played in the National Premier Soccer League, unofficially the 4th level on the U.S. soccer pyramid. In 2015, the team moved to Dayton to become the Dynamo.

The Cincinnati Lady Saints (WPSL 2014-2015)

Cincinnati returned to the WPSL in 2014 with the Lady Saints, who played their home games at Withrow Stadium but lasted only 2 seasons.

The Cincinnati Sirens (WPSL, 2016-present)

After the demise of the Lady Saints, the Sirens, now Cincinnati Sirens FC, began play in the WPSL. Their 2018 season starts May 19 at Lakota West High School where they’ll host the Columbus Eagles.

The Cincinnati Dutch Lions (USL PDL, 2013 to present)

Like the Sirens, the Cincinnati Dutch Lions are an active pro soccer team in the area. Playing in the USL Player Development League, the team started in 2014, first at Xavier University, then Mason High School in 2016, and Northern Kentucky University’s soccer stadium as of 2017. The USL PDL is the 4th tier of soccer in the U.S

In 2016, the club made an appearance in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

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