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Making an Impression

JEFF BERDING President & Co-CEO, FC Cincinnati

Jeff Berding never intended to be a real-life Ted Lasso — a football-turned-soccer guy. Berding studied politics, international affairs and Soviet studies in college. Then, he spent 20 years working for the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals.

Two of Berding’s three children were excellent soccer players and fans of Manchester United in England. Jeff wanted them — and the rest of Cincinnati — to have a hometown team to call their own.

“I was probably a little audacious to think that I could bring a third major league team to Cincinnati,” says Berding, Co-CEO of FC Cincinnati.

Even more audacious was building the team’s TQL Stadium — a condition for entering Major League Soccer (MLS). Berding had only four months to win over the West End neighborhood that was distrustful of adding a stadium as change had historically been for the worse for residents.

His boldness paid off. Beginning play in 2016, FC Cincinnati averaged over 17,000 fans in its first year, growing to nearly 26,000 within three years. After years as a minor league club, FCC earned an MLS expansion bid and then joined the league in 2019. In 2022, TQL Stadium earned the Best Venue award from the World Football Summit.

Beyond filling seats, the team is rejuvenating the community through job training opportunities, youth programs, scholarships and investments. FCC distributed the third annual installment of $100,000 in grant funding to support non-profit businesses in Cincinnati’s West End.

“We use the tagline, ‘Rise together,’” says Berding, a 2022 Vistage Member Excellence award winner. “We don’t do it for the bottom line. Our larger take is just helping Cincinnati rise. When the community is healthy, people feel pride.

Hear how Jeff Berding created a culture of raving fans and built a world-class soccer stadium against the odds. vistage.com/podcast
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Making an Impression