Wednesday morning, the soccer fans in the state of Ohio got huge news. Massive Report editor Patrick Murphy confirmed through multiple sources that Lower.com Field in Columbus will host the United States Men’s FIFA World Cup Qualifier against Costa Rica on Oct. 13. Shortly after, it was officially announced that TQL Stadium in Cincinnati will host the Nov. 12 match between the U.S. and Mexico.
It will be the first time both stadiums host international soccer games with each being a marquee match for the USMNT’s road to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar after missing the 2018 competition in Russia. While Columbus received a qualifier, it didn’t get the one the city is used to, the U.S. vs. Mexico, instead moving to Cincinnati.
Historic Crew Stadium hosted the last five editions of the CONCACAF rivalry for World Cup Qualifiers and Columbus fans had a legitimate expectation the tradition would carry on in the Columbus Crew’s new stadium. Columbus fans will have a bitter taste in their mouths seeing a soccer tradition of more than a decade and the more anticipated match gone from their city.
However, this hosting announcement can be a moment of unification between Columbus and Cincinnati.
As someone who grew up in Columbus, knowing each U.S.-Mexico game was played in my city gave me great pride. It still gives me great pride that a game will be played in my home state with Columbus getting its own marquee World Cup Qualifier a month earlier. Ohio is home to two of the best soccer-specific stadiums in the United States and the federation recognizes that with back-to-back home matches for the national team right here.
Columbus and Cincinnati should be incredibly proud to have two world-class sporting facilities, not just in the landscape of MLS but in the world of soccer. Lower.com Field and TQL Stadium are truly remarkable places each with their own unique features that distinguish them from many other sporting venues across the country.
The U.S. Soccer Federation is spoiled for choice with these two stadiums. But why pick TQL Stadium over Lower.com Field and take away a Columbus tradition? Money is likely the biggest reason.
TQL Stadium has an extra 6,000 seats compared to Lower.com Field to go along with more suites. That spells more money for the United States Soccer Federation and likely means future U.S.-Mexico games will probably move around the Midwest, if not the whole country.
The last time the two played in World Cup Qualifiers in 2016, Cincinnati, Minnesota, and Nashville all didn’t have soccer-specific stadiums. Those cities now do and the USSF wants to show off its great stadiums to the world. It could not do that in 2016.
Having the U.S.-Mexico game in Cincinnati is also a perfect audition for the city with the 2026 World Cup coming along. The Queen City is the only candidate city from the Buckeye State that could host matches for the World Cup, with games being played at Paul Brown Stadium, home of the NFL’s Bengals. Columbus residents that want to go to a World Cup match so close should hope TQL Stadium puts on a show in front of CONCACAF, the USSF and FIFA.
And I believe it will.
There is also the argument that, for the USMNT, the games against Costa Rica and Mexico are the two biggest in qualifying and Ohio is hosting both of them. That’s awesome. This might also be the last time these World Cup Qualifiers will carry this much weight.
Neither Mexico, the United States nor Canada will have to go through qualifying for 2026 with all three set co-host the event. So, there will be no World Cup qualifiers for Columbus, Cincinnati or any other city to host in 2025.
The next chance for qualifying matches would be in 2029 in anticipation of the 2030 World Cup, the 100-year anniversary of the greatest sporting event on the planet. That tournament will have 48 teams instead of 32 and be the first instance the Americans have to qualify in an expanded field. CONCACAF should get at least four or five spots, which hardly makes things intriguing for the USMNT, heavy favorites to qualify in an expanded field.
The weight of U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Costa Rica could reduce by the end of the decade and Ohio will host the last really crucial and meaningful qualifying matches in each series. The moment should be enjoyed by Columbus and Cincinnati fans rather than spent being snarky towards one another.
Two world-class stadiums in the same state should breed a great rivalry and the Hell is Real Derby is on the path to becoming just that. The next match between the Crew and FC Cincinnati on Aug. 27 in Columbus should be full of snippiness from fans because Black & Gold supporters will rightly be annoyed a decade-plus long tradition was given to its rival.
If the teams become more competitive (looking at you Cincinnati) then the rivalry will be better. Twice a year, fans could see the soccer clubs of Ohio battle in their world-class stadiums in great games and turn into the best rivalry in the league. All that does is make the clubs better and grows the game to unforeseen heights in Ohio and America.
In all honesty, I too am a little irritated the U.S.-Mexico game went to Cincinnati, but I’d be more upset if the venue FC Cincy built didn’t deserve it and Lower.com Field didn’t get a match for this cycle. TQL Stadium is a venue fit for a match of this magnitude and Columbus is getting a worthy qualifier in October. Both venues will have many more momentous games to come and Columbus and Cincinnati soccer fans have so much to look forward to.