Ohio Spotlight

March 7, 2024

Ohio strong in recent MLS power rankings

Columbus Crew and FC Cincinnati among top-5

By Jorge Pare

© Albert Cesare/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Midwest is known for many things: Its hard-working citizens, its love of all sports, and – in both name and spirit – for being the “heart” of the country.

Go ahead and add “soccer power” to the list as well.

In the most recent ESPN MLS Power Rankings, both teams from Ohio sit high atop the list, as FC Cincinnati comes in at No. 4 while the Columbus Crew occupy the list’s top spot. The only other team on within the top-10 that can reasonably call the Midwest home is Minnesota United. Perhaps a more accurate statement is that “The state of Ohio appears to be at the epicenter of Major League Soccer this season.”

Last season FC Cincinnati won its first-ever Supporters Shield, given to the MLS team that finishes with the best regular season record. Only in its fifth season as a franchise, the club finished with a league-leading 69 total points. As the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, FC Cincy advanced all the way to the conference finals where they were narrowly defeated in overtime by eventual MLS Cup Champ and in-state rival Columbus. The Crew beat Los Angeles FC in the final.

It would appear as if both clubs have picked up right where they left off. Aside from the early power rankings, both teams have four points on the young season, each having tallied a win and a draw and each having an overall goal differential of 1.

For FC Cincinnati, there was some concern about replacing the goal productivity of USMNT and Monterrey striker Brandon Vazquez, but thus far, it appears that Aaron-Salem Boupendza is up for the challenge. Boupendza scored this past weekend against Chicago, as well as a CONCACAF goal last week. Ironically, Vazquez will face his former club Thursday night as FC Cincy will take the pitch against Monterrey in the CONCACAF Round of 16.

The Crew also looks to be in midseason form already. Cucho Hernandez is once again an offensive force, having scored two goals, one in each game of the season.

While power rankings are never a scientific endeavor, it’s clear that both of Ohio’s MLS teams have a reasonable chance to compete for a championship this season. Columbus will take on Chicago this Saturday, while FC Cincinnati faces off against New England on Sunday. Ohio soccer fans will have to wait until May 11, however, for the highly anticipated rematch of the Eastern Conference Finals. 

Ohio Game of the Week:

NCAAMB: VCU @ No. 25 Dayton (Friday, March 8, 7:00 p.m. ET)

© Matt Lunsford-USA TODAY Sports

The Dayton Flyers are currently the only college basketball team in Ohio that stakes claim to a top-25 ranking. And by most accounts, it will be Dayton and possibly Akron representing the Buckeye State when it comes to March Madness; the usual suspects – Ohio State and Cincinnati – could be left out of the 68-team field. As the Flyers approach the postseason, however, they’ve got a score to settle – and as luck would have it, their rematch with VCU takes place on Friday night. Dayton is 23-6 on the season, and one of those six losses came at the hands of VCU in early February. This time, the two teams will go at it in Dayton, where the Flyers haven’t lost all season.