Immediately recognizing Columbus as a large metro area with an underserved appetite for pro sports, the MLS awarded Columbus one of the original ten charter franchises in 1994. They won their first and only MLS Cup in 2008, beating New York, and won the 2002 US Open Cup. They fielded great teams sporadically throughout the 2000s, winning the Supporters’ Shield (most regular season points) in 2004, 2008, and 2009, but also missing the playoffs a few times. They haven’t made the playoffs since 2011 but are right back in the thick of things this year and could break the short drought.
The Crew play at Columbus Crew Stadium north of downtown Columbus, not far from the campus of Ohio State University. Having played in the league for nearly two decades now, the Crew have become a staple in the stports culture of Ohio and are one of the more well-known MLS franchises in the league. Columbus has a strong rivalry with the Chicago Fire. Due to the relatively short distance between the cities, fans will often travel from one to the other to root for their team on the road. The Crew was also groundbreaking for the league as they were the first MLS team to strike a deal with a local TV network, TimeWarner’s SportsChannel Ohio. All MLS games are now broadcast locally if not covered nationally by ESPN, NBCSN, or FS1 per the current TV contract.