In many ways, Tim Real is your typical Philadelphia sports fan who grew up as a “four for four” fan of the Phillies, Eagles, Flyers and Sixers.
But when it comes to soccer, MLS newcomers FC Cincinnati have captured the attention of the Drexel Hill, Pa. native to the point where his Twitter profile now references four Philly teams and FCC.
Real first encountered the team — founded as a USL club in 2016 — when he was visiting his brother in the Cincinnati area and attended a game.
“The first game I went to I was just like ‘wow,’ the atmosphere was so crazy,” he said in an interview earlier this week.
A former high school soccer player at Devon Prep, Real has been to several Union games and still likes his hometown club but FC Cincinnati became his first choice team after moving to Northern Kentucky for law school a couple years ago.
“I still want them to beat the Red Bulls every time,” Real said of the Union.
The contrast between the two fanbases — even when Cincinnati was in a lower division — was something Real noticed right away.
“Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t pay a lot of attention to the Union in Philadelphia and I’ve always had a good time at games there but it feels like the city of Cincinnati has embraced the team a little bit more than Philly,” Real said.
The general sports scene and the makeup of the two cities also couldn’t be more different. Philadelphia is a top five market with pro teams in all five major sports plus indoor lacrosse, arena football and even eSports now and boasts more than double the metro population. Cincinnati, meanwhile, is considered the smallest market in MLB and is among the smallest markets in the NFL.
“It’s kind of like in Philly there’s so much already happening (aside from soccer) in the sports landscape and then in Cincinnati it’s kind of just Bengals and Reds,” he said. “There’s a minor league hockey team but it’s pretty much everyone shows up when they have dollar beer nights.”
While law school doesn’t leave a ton of free time, following FC Cincinnati — which drew a record 25,000-fans a game in USL last season and brought in over 32,000 to its first MLS game this season — has helped Real transition to his new city and connect with a lot of other soccer fans. His girlfriend, Tori Link, has also gotten on board with FC Cincinnati.
“Soccer is pretty much the only sport I never got into and before FCC became a thing the only MLS experience I had was a couple of Columbus Crew games,” said Link, who grew up outside Columbus. “But the environment of FCC has a such a good energy that it’s impossible not to get caught up in it.”
Saturday will be Real’s first MLS game at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati. He said he’ll be rooting for a close game.
“The perfect scenario would be a really good competitive game and FCC kind of sneaks one out in the end,” Real said. “I want Cincy to win but I also don’t want the Union to look bad.”
The game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. and will be broadcast live back here on PHL17. Union legend Sébastien Le Toux will be part of the broadcast team for the first time.