Columbus Crew
Full nameColumbus Crew[1]
Nickname(s)The Crew[2]
The Black and Gold[3]
FoundedJune 15, 1994; 29 years ago (1994-06-15)
StadiumLower.com Field
Columbus, Ohio
Capacity20,371[4]
OwnersDee and Jimmy Haslam
JW and Whitney Johnson
Pete Edwards
PresidentTim Bezbatchenko
Head coachWilfried Nancy
LeagueMajor League Soccer
2023Eastern Conference: 3rd
Overall: 3rd
Playoffs: Champions
WebsiteClub website
Current season

The Columbus Crew is an American professional soccer club based in Columbus, Ohio. The Crew competes in Major League Soccer (MLS) as a member of the league's Eastern Conference and began play in 1996 as one of the 10 charter clubs of the league.[5] The team is currently operated by an ownership group led by the Haslam family (also owners of the Cleveland Browns and Pilot Corporation) and former team physician Pete Edwards. The Haslam/Edwards group is the third ownership group in club history. The Crew is considered to be one of the most successful clubs in MLS.

The franchise was founded in 1994. Its stadium is Lower.com Field, opened in 2021. From 1999 to 2021, the Crew played home games at Historic Crew Stadium (formerly Mapfre Stadium and Columbus Crew Stadium), the first soccer-specific stadium built for an MLS team, with a seating capacity of 19,968 as of the 2015 season. From 1996 to 1998, the Crew played its home games at Ohio Stadium on the campus of Ohio State University.[5] In 2023, the team set club attendance records for both most cumulative attendance and most sellouts.[6]

The Crew have won seven major trophies: the MLS Cup in 2008, 2020 and 2023; the Supporters' Shield in 2004, 2008, and 2009; and the 2002 U.S. Open Cup. The Crew have qualified for the CONCACAF Champions Cup (or its predecessor, the CONCACAF Champions League) five times, reaching the quarter-finals on the first three occasions. In 2021, the club won their first continental trophy by winning the Campeones Cup.

History

The beginning (1994–1998)

The Crew played their first game on April 13, 1996, at Ohio Stadium.

On June 15, 1994, Major League Soccer announced that Columbus, Ohio, would be home to one of the ten founding members of the new top flight North American professional soccer league. Columbus had promised construction of a soccer-specific stadium and had sold over 12,000 season ticket deposits.[7] The team was tentatively named the Columbus Eclipse in its application to the league, as a solar eclipse had passed over the city after reaching the league's 10,000-deposit minimum.[8][9] Prior to the initial MLS season, a public contest was created to decide the name for the team. The name "the Crew", was picked out of 2,500 entrants and 650 nickname suggestions. The winning individual linked it to Christopher Columbus, his voyages and the crew that accompanied him on his discoveries. However, by the time it was chosen as the official name of the team, it was detached from the famous explorer and instead pitched as representative of Midwestern hard work.[10]

MLS investor Lamar Hunt, and his son Clark became the owners of both the Columbus Crew and Kansas City Wizards in 1996. The first players for the Crew were South African national team veteran Doctor Khumalo, by assignment, and Brian McBride. McBride was selected as the first overall pick in MLS's first draft in 1996.[11] Former U.S. National Team coach Timo Liekoski would be the team's head coach for its first season.[12][13]

The Crew played their first game on April 13, 1996, in front of a home crowd of 25,266 in Ohio Stadium against D.C. United and won 4–0.[11][14] Columbus would struggle, however, winning only 5 of their next 21 games. After the 6–16 start, Tom Fitzgerald replaced head coach Liekoski.[15] The Crew, under Fitzgerald, won 9 of their last 10 games to finish fourth in the Eastern Conference. They went on to lose in the conference playoff semi-finals.[11][16]

The Black & Gold finished 15–17 in both 1997 and 1998, which put them in third and fourth place, respectively, in the Eastern Conference. Each season ended with losses in the Conference Finals to D.C. United. In 1998, the Crew reached the U.S. Open Cup Final. However, the match was postponed due to a hurricane[17] and was controversially relocated from Virginia Beach to Soldier Field in Chicago, the home of the Chicago Fire.[18] The Fire would go on to win the match 2–1 after extra time. Stern John, in his first of two seasons with Columbus, was the 1998 scoring champion, amassing 26 goals and 5 assists.[13][16]

A new home (1999–2003)

Columbus's 1999 season began with the opening of Columbus Crew Stadium, the first soccer-specific stadium in the United States. Columbus won their first game in the stadium, 2–0, against New England Revolution in front of a sell-out crowd of 24,741.[11] Columbus would finish in second place at 19–13, but would lose in the conference finals to D.C. United for the third straight season. The 1999 season was the last for Stern John who scored 52 goals in 65 games for the club.[13] The team had the lowest goals against average in the Eastern Conference,[19] and Mark Dougherty became the first goalkeeper in league history to record 50 wins, with a 4–2 win over the MetroStars on August 18, 1999, at Giants Stadium.[20]

The Crew hosted the 2000 MLS All-Star Game, with Mike Clark, Brian McBride, and Dante Washington representing Columbus in the game.[11][21] The aforementioned Dante Washington was acquired from the Dallas Burn to replace Stern John, but his 13 goals in 2000 was not enough to propel the Crew to the playoffs. For the first time, Columbus failed to reach the postseason. Columbus got off to a slow 1–3–2 start in 2001, which led to the replacement of coach Tom Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald, who had coached 161 of the Crew's first 183 MLS matches over parts of six seasons between 1996 and 2001, was replaced by Greg Andrulis. Andrulis would lead the Black & Gold to a 2nd-place finish in 2001 but the team was ousted from the playoffs in the league quarterfinals.[13][16]

In 2002, Columbus would win the U.S. Open Cup for the first time in team history. They advanced to the finals by beating the Richmond Kickers, MetroStars, and Kansas City Wizards. In the final, they beat LA Galaxy, who had just won the MLS Cup earlier in the week. Freddy García scored the only goal and keeper Jon Busch posted the shutout in Columbus's 1–0 win. It was the first championship in team history.[22] The Crew finished 11–12–5 in the regular season and finished in a tie for first place. They lost in the league semi-finals to New England. Kyle Martino won rookie of the year in 2002, a first for the Crew. By winning the 2002 U.S. Open Cup, Columbus received a bid to play in the 2003 CONCACAF Champions' Cup. They advanced to the second round by beating Árabe Unido 4–2 on aggregate in the first round before losing to Monarcas Morelia, 6–2. McBride would play his final season with Columbus in 2003 before joining Fulham of the Premier League.[13][16]

Transitions (2004–2006)

With the departure of Brian McBride, Columbus added Robin Fraser and Simon Elliott to the club. These additions proved to be vital as Fraser went on to win the Defender of the Year award in 2004. The Crew set a franchise record for points, 49, by going 12–5–13, thanks in part to an 18-game unbeaten streak (8–0–10) to end the season. Despite winning the Supporters' Shield for best record in the league, the club would be eliminated from the MLS Cup in the Eastern Conference semi-finals. In his last season for the Black & Gold, Jeff Cunningham scored his 62nd goal, which tied him with McBride for the franchise record.[13][16]

Over both of the next two seasons, Columbus battled injuries to several players and struggled to win many games. Despite winning the MLS Coach of the Year Award in 2004,[23] Andrulis was replaced on an interim basis by Robert Warzycha midway through the 2005 season. After missing playoffs in the 2005 season, the club would hire former L.A. Galaxy and UCLA head coach Sigi Schmid. Schmid had won an MLS Cup and U.S. Open Championship in his six seasons with Galaxy.[24] Warzycha remained on staff under Schmid. In 2006, the Crew went on a 13-game winless streak (0–7–6) between June 10 and August 19. The season ended on a tragic note when team founder and owner Lamar Hunt died on December 14, 2006.[13][16][25]

Around this time, Columbus Crew supporters began using the term "Massive" to describe the club and city, at first ironically, but then as a term of pride and endearment of the club that continuously fought the odds.[26]

The Barros Schelotto era (2007–2010)

The Crew signed Guillermo Barros Schelotto in 2007, who helped them reach their first MLS Cup the next year.

The 2007 season in Major League Soccer started with news that global icon David Beckham signed with the LA Galaxy.[27] The Crew followed suit by signing Guillermo Barros Schelotto on April 19, 2007.[28] Columbus also signed forward Alejandro Moreno to bolster its attack. Even with these new players, the Crew still missed the playoffs in 2007.[13]

In 2008, the Crew won its first Eastern Conference title, and subsequently, its first MLS Cup.[11] Led by Barros Schelotto, who scored seven goals and had 19 assists and won the MLS Most Valuable Player Award,[29] the team also won its second Supporters' Shield. After going 17–7–6 in the regular season, the Black & Gold won playoff games against Kansas City and Chicago Fire before beating the New York Red Bulls 3–1 in the final. Chad Marshall won MLS Defender of the Year award, and Sigi Schmid won Coach of the Year.[13][16]

After the 2008 season, Sigi Schmid declined a contract offer from Columbus and became coach of the Seattle Sounders. The Crew's ownership believed that Schmid had been in contact with the Sounders despite being denied permission to talk to other teams during the season. It was also alleged that he shared confidential information with Seattle after his contract with the Crew had ended.[30] Major League Soccer ruled that no tampering had occurred, but ordered Seattle to financially compensate the Crew.[31] Columbus would then name former player and assistant coach Robert Warzycha head coach. In 2009, Barros Schelotto was rewarded with the honor of becoming the franchise's first Designated Player.[32] The club went 13–7–10 in the regular season, good enough for 49 points and their second consecutive Supporters' Shield. The Crew was eliminated by Real Salt Lake in the two-legged Eastern Conference semi-finals, 4–2 on aggregate. Chad Marshall won his second consecutive MLS Defender of the Year award.[13]

Columbus started the 2010 season in the CONCACAF Champions League. They reached the quarterfinals but lost to Toluca in March. The club finished the season 14–8–8 but lost in the quarterfinals of the MLS Cup playoffs to the Colorado Rapids. The Crew lost 2–1 in the 2010 U.S. Open Cup Final at Qwest Field, home of the Seattle Sounders.[13]

Warzycha's final years (2011–2013)

In 2011, the Crew finished ninth in the league at 13–13–8 and lost in the wild card round of the playoffs to the Colorado Rapids.[33][34]

In 2012, the club finished sixth in the Eastern Conference with a 15–12–7 record. They would narrowly miss the playoffs.

On September 2, 2013, the Crew parted ways with Head Coach Robert Warzycha after an embarrassing home loss to the Seattle Sounders, combined with a highly frustrated fanbase. Brian Bliss, the Crew's technical director, took over as interim head coach.[35] This effectively ended his stay with the club since 1996, when he joined the club as a player.

The Precourt era (2013–2018)

On July 30, 2013, Anthony Precourt became the second investor-operator in the history of the club.[36] Precourt upgraded portions of Crew Stadium, as well as evolving the team's brand in a way that identified with the city of Columbus, all within his first 15 months with the club.

On November 6, 2013, Precourt announced that Gregg Berhalter would be the club's new head coach.[37] Berhalter also became the first sporting director in club history.

The 2014 season saw Columbus return to the postseason for the first time since 2011. Under Berhalter, the Crew finished the year 14–10–10, good enough for the third seed in the Eastern Conference of the MLS Cup Playoffs.

The Crew also sent two of its players to the 2014 FIFA World Cup, center back Giancarlo González and left back Waylon Francis, who both represented Costa Rica during the tournament. Gonzalez was hailed for his performance, being named to ESPN's Best XI of the group stage.[38]

Berhalter was nominated for 2014 MLS Head Coach of the Year. Likewise, goalkeeper Steve Clark was nominated for 2014 Goalkeeper of the Year and Michael Parkhurst won the Individual Fair Play Award for the third time.[39]

Off the field, the Black & Gold announced sports industry veteran Andy Loughnane as its new President of Business Operations on August 16, 2014.[40] The team set the all-time attendance record and sellout record for a single season at Crew Stadium.[41] The combination of the club's on-field success and off-field resurgence capped a successful full first year for Precourt and Berhalter.

On October 8, 2014, the Precourt ownership changed the name and logo of the club, changing the name from "Columbus Crew" to "Columbus Crew SC".[42]

The beginning of the 2015 season started in late 2014 with the return of Kei Kamara.[43] Kamara proved to be beneficial as he scored 22 regular season goals and 4 playoff goals. Along with Kamara, Ethan Finlay and Waylon Francis received spots in the 2015 MLS All-Star Game versus English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur.[44] On September 26, 2015, Crew SC hosted their largest sellout crowd since 2008 with an announced attendance of 22,719.[45] Crew SC came into the playoffs with a bye in the first round after securing second place in the Eastern Conference. Following the Eastern Conference semi-final and final match-ups, Crew SC played host to the Portland Timbers in the 2015 MLS Cup Final.[46] This was the club's second-ever MLS Cup Final appearance after the 2008 MLS Cup championship. The Crew was upset by the Portland Timbers at home following the 2–1 loss. All three goals were scored in the first half including the lone Crew SC goal scored by Kamara.[47] Kamara was nominated for the Landon Donovan MLS MVP Award. Kamara was also nominated for and won the MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year Award. Wil Trapp was nominated for the MLS Comeback Player of the Year Award.[48][49]

Proposed relocation to Austin

A "Save the Crew" tifo before a game against the Chicago Fire in 2018

On October 17, 2017, Precourt announced intentions to relocate the franchise to Austin, Texas, if a downtown stadium could not be secured in Columbus.[50] Following the news, fans and supporters of the club began a campaign and movement known as #SaveTheCrew. Many had been present in the city's council building on behalf of the cause. Later in the month, it was revealed that Precourt had a clause in his purchase of the club that would allow him to relocate the franchise, but only to Austin.[51]

On November 15, 2017, Precourt and MLS commissioner Don Garber met with Columbus mayor Andrew Ginther and civic and business leaders about the Crew's future in Columbus. After the meeting, both sides issued press releases detailing the meeting. Per the delegation from Columbus, Precourt and MLS refused to take the relocation threat off the table.[52] Per Precourt and MLS, Columbus leaders did not present any plan for a downtown stadium.[53] On the issue, the mayor stated it was "obvious that Don Garber nor PSV (Precourt Sports Ventures) had any commitment for the team to stay in Columbus".[54]

In the annual state of the league conference, commissioner Garber addressed more on the potential move. He had stated the difficulties there has been present with the market over the years. Discussing in 2008, when the league began its initiative to end having ownership groups owning multiple franchises in the league, there was no success in finding a local ownership group in the market of Columbus, with an interested group wanting to purchase the team but with a very low value. It was then when the league's executives hired a different company banker and expanded its search regionally where Anthony Precourt was involved. Garber stated that had Precourt not acquired the club, there was a possibility that Columbus would have ceased operations and ultimately folded. As to why the issues were not stated publicly, Don Garber stated that the league is a "private business" and what's been happening has been seen in other major sport leagues in the country.[55]

On March 5, 2018, Ohio attorney general Mike DeWine and Columbus city attorney Zach Klein filed a lawsuit against Precourt, citing a previously untested 1996 state law that prevents sports teams that benefited from public facilities or financial assistance from relocating to another city without a six-month notice and attempting to sell the team to a local ownership group (the Modell Law).[56] The bill was originally passed after the controversial relocation of the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore.[57]

Haslam era and two MLS Cups (2018–present)

This section needs to be updated. Please help update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information. (May 2021)

On October 12, 2018, the owner of the Cleveland Browns, Jimmy Haslam, released a statement stating he was in the process of buying the Crew, along with other local groups.[58] MLS later released a statement stating their willingness to keep the Crew in Columbus, and that Precourt will get the rights to start a team in Austin if the deal goes through.[59] As part of the deal, the lawsuit against Precourt was dismissed that day; the Modell Law remains untested as a result.[60]

On January 1, 2019, control of the Crew franchise was officially transferred to the Haslam family and longtime team physician Dr. Pete Edwards, who took full ownership of the club after reaching a deal with Precourt Sports Ventures LLC.[61] The new ownership group also quickly announced that they would be building a new stadium for the Crew in the Arena District of downtown Columbus.

The team then hired Tim Bezbatchenko as president from Toronto FC and Caleb Porter, previously with the Portland Timbers, as their new coach for the 2019 season.[62] The 2019 season was a forgettable one as the Crew dealt with injuries throughout the season.

Before the start of the 2020 MLS season, the Crew made two major signings, bringing in new designated player Lucas Zelarayán and midfielder Darlington Nagbe. The team started out the season well, winning their group in the MLS is Back Tournament before going out in the round of 16 and finishing in third place in the Eastern conference and fourth place overall. After making a run in the playoffs, the Crew won their second MLS Cup just two years into the Haslam era, defeating the Seattle Sounders 3–0 at Mapfre Stadium on December 12, 2020, in MLS Cup 2020.[63]

Weeks into the 2021 season, the franchise announced they would now be known as Columbus SC, using "Columbus Crew" and "The Crew" in informal instances.[64] The rebrand received strongly negative reception from supporters of the team.[65] A statement by the Nordecke claimed that "neither the Nordecke nor any Crew Supporters Group was involved at any time with the conception, development, or design of the rebrand. The Board was only shown the rebrand in the last few days, and it was presented to us as a completed product with no chance for input." The logo was further criticized as generic and harming the team's identity.[66] This was done despite promises of fan involvement by team president Tim Bezbatchenko, which led to him being labeled as a "traitor".[67] A petition was created on change.org to restore the team's name.[68] Other observers noted that the rebrand was part of a similar trend in MLS teams to emulate European naming conventions,[69] and was compared to the rebranding of Chicago Fire FC two years earlier.[70][71] On May 17, 2021, in response to the backlash surrounding the rebrand, the franchise announced that "Columbus Crew" would remain as their official name and that the new logo would be modified accordingly. In addition, the "SC" was dropped from the brand, with the team's name being simply the "Columbus Crew" once again.[72][73]

Crew players celebrate winning the Eastern Conference final in the 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs.

They recorded their first win at Lower.com Field on July 17, 2021.[74][75][76]

Columbus fired Porter after the team failed to qualify for the 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs.[77] In December 2022, they hired Wilfried Nancy from CF Montréal as Porter's replacement.[78] In Nancy's first season, Columbus advanced through the playoffs, beating Atlanta United, Orlando City, and FC Cincinnati in a playoff edition of the Hell Is Real derby to reach MLS Cup 2023, played on December 9 at Lower.com Field.[79] The Crew defeated holders Los Angeles FC by 2–1 to capture the third MLS Cup title in the club's history.

Colors and badge

The official colors of the Crew are black and gold.[80] Columbus's usual primary jersey is predominately bright yellow with black trim and has been nicknamed the "banana kit" or "canary kit" by fans.[citation needed]

The alternate uniform has historically been black. In the latter part of the 2000s, The Crew began shifting more towards a white uniform with yellow and black trim or stripes. Even so, the away uniforms are seldom worn by The Crew due to the strong favor shown to the traditional home uniform; and also due to the fact that the historically black jerseys compound the summer heat in the United States climate. For the 2015 season, the Crew returned to a black jersey for its alternate uniform.[citation needed]

The club badge from 1996 to 2014 was unique amongst MLS teams in that it featured people, containing three silhouetted males wearing construction hats beneath a stylized "Crew" wordmark. The logo was intended to represent a crew of hard-working people, much like the hard-working, blue collar image the city of Columbus cultivates.[9][81]

Citing a disconnect between what the crest stood for and the 21st-century identity of the city of Columbus, owner Anthony Precourt initiated a rebrand upon assuming ownership in 2013. Precourt said that Columbus was no longer a true blue collar town, and that the industrial/manufacturing motif was no longer representative. In fact, Columbus had grown into a 21st-century city and become much more "dynamic and diverse".[81][82]

On October 8, 2014, the Crew unveiled a new badge. The new circular-shaped badge features the club's classic black and gold colors, a minimized original crest with "96" overlaid on top, and the black and gold checkerboard pattern predominantly seen on flags waving in the Nordecke.[83][84] A great deal of symbolism was packed into the new badge. The horizontal stripes are representative of the ten original MLS franchises, and the shield is an homage to the club's original badge with the 96 representing 1996 – the club's first year in competition. The inset "O" in the badge mimics the same shape found in Ohio state flag, a nod to Columbus's role as the state's capital city. Finally, as a significant point of pride for the city of Columbus, "Columbus" was added to the new badge, along with "SC" to further define the brand more accurately as a soccer club.[85][86]

The club's nickname, the Crew, also evolved from its original meaning as a hard-working construction crew to a new, more relevant one as "a tight-knit group of people who come together to share a passion for our club and the sport of soccer". The nickname, Crew, is now meant to symbolize a unique brand of family and friendship between the club, the fans and the communities who unite to embrace and celebrate the authenticity and heritage of the sport. With the rebrand, the club also identified three brand pillars: original, energetic, and authentically Columbus, in an effort to celebrate its history as a team of firsts – first club in Major League Soccer, first soccer-specific stadium, first major professional championship for Columbus – its youthful, passionate energy, as well as Columbus's young, progressive culture.[84][87]

Uniform history
1996–97
1998
1999–01
2002–03
2005–06
2006–07
2008–09
2010–11
2012–13
2014
2015–16
2017–18
2019–20
2021
2022–

Stadium

Historic Crew Stadium, the Crew's home from 1999 to 2021, is MLS' first soccer-specific stadium.
Lower.com Field, the current home of the Crew.

Main articles: Historic Crew Stadium and Lower.com Field

On May 15, 1999, the Crew opened Columbus Crew Stadium, the first soccer-specific stadium in Major League Soccer, as the Crew beat the New England Revolution 2–0 before a sold-out crowd of 24,741. It has been the model stadium for the rest of the league, and one of the stadiums used by the United States national team in World Cup qualifying. In 2015, the naming rights for the stadium were purchased by Madrid-based insurance company Mapfre.[citation needed]

Previously, the Columbus Crew played their home games at the 102,000-capacity Ohio Stadium on the campus of the Ohio State University, home of the Ohio State Buckeyes college football team. They ended with a 33–20 record while playing there.[citation needed]

The team has also played U.S. Open Cup games at two other stadiums: two games in 2005 and 2016 at the Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium, also owned by the Ohio State University and home of the OSU soccer teams; and one in 2014 at the FirstEnergy Stadium–Cub Cadet Field on the campus of the University of Akron in Akron, Ohio.[88][89][90]

As part of the new ownership proposal for the Crew unveiled in 2018, the club announced plans to build a new stadium in the Arena District of Downtown Columbus. The new stadium would cost $230 million and be located at the center of the Confluence Village neighborhood, a mixed-use development with residential and commercial buildings. It would seat 20,000 spectators and include 30 suites and 1,900 club seats.[91] In 2020, a new authority took ownership of Mapfre Stadium, soon renamed Historic Crew Stadium, and its adjacent city sports park, with the team continuing to control that venue in terms of its use as a training facility. The training facility, the OhioHealth Performance Center, opened in June 2021.[92] The new stadium had its groundbreaking ceremony in 2019 and was completed in mid-2021.[93] On June 15, 2021, the new stadium was named Lower.com Field via a sponsorship deal with Columbus-based online real estate company Lower.com,[94] and the Crew's first game there was on July 3 against the New England Revolution.[95]

Revenue and profitability

Having lost money in 2011, in 2012 the Crew identified three financial goals with the aim of achieving financial stability.[96] First, the team wanted a different jersey sponsor, which it achieved when they reached a deal with Barbasol. Second, the team wanted to sell naming rights to Columbus Crew Stadium, hoping for $15 million over 10 years. Third, the Crew had announced in September 2011 that it aimed to increase season-ticket sales from its current levels (later revealed to be 4,000) to 10,000.[96][97] By November 2012, Crew season tickets were at 6,000,[97] and by August 2013, the Crew had surpassed 7,000 season ticket holders.[98]

Under Precourt Sports Ventures, Anthony Precourt, and Andy Loughnane, the Crew's goals have shifted from exclusively focusing on season ticket sales to selling out MAPFRE Stadium. In 2014, the club set all-time stadium attendance records for highest overall attendance and most sellouts in one season. Loughnane confirmed that the club was trending to increase its season ticket membership by 1,000 members per year and also stated his intent for the club to assimilate into the corporate community and fan culture, adding that he believes this transformation is happening rapidly.[99] On March 3, 2015, the Crew announced that they had agreed to a multimillion-dollar stadium naming rights partnership with MAPFRE Insurance, a first for the stadium.[100] In 2015, the Crew and EAS Sports Nutrition agreed to a naming rights deal for its training facilities. Merchandise sales grew double digits since the previous year, as did food and beverage sales. It was also announced that the club gained over 1,000 new season ticket members from the previous year.[101]

Sponsorship

The team's first shirt sponsor was Mars' Snickers chocolate bar, which signed a five-year deal worth $6 million that ran from 1996 to 2000. Pepsi followed as the team's shirt sponsor from 2002 to 2004, and was replaced by Glidden, which had a three-year deal worth $1 million per year, from 2008 to 2010.[102][103][104]

In 2012, the Crew announced a new shirt sponsorship deal with Barbasol, a shaving cream brand based in Dublin, Ohio. The deal was worth $900,000 annually, and ran for five years. This was followed by a three-year deal with Acura, which was announced in February 2017 and was the largest annual commercial transaction in the club's history, with a reported value of $1.8 million per year.[105][106][107]

On February 27, 2020, the Columbus Crew announced a multi-year deal with Nationwide, a Columbus-based insurance company. While the exact terms of the deal were not disclosed, the annual value was reported to be more than $3 million. [107][108]

Period Kit manufacturer Shirt sponsor Sleeve sponsor Shorts sponsor
1996–2000 Adidas Snickers
2002–2004 Pepsi
2008–2010 Glidden
2012 Barbasol U.S. Soccer Development Academy
2013–2016
2017–2019 Acura
2020 Nationwide Children's Hospital Scotts OhioHealth
2021 Nationwide Insurance
2022–present Tipico

There was no jersey sponsor in 2001, 2005–2007 and 2011.

Club culture

Supporters and Nordecke

The Nordecke, the Columbus Crew's supporter section, displaying a tifo before MLS Cup 2023 at Lower.com Field

Before the 2008 season, the Columbus Crew front office demolished the north stands where the most ardent of Crew supporters stood, in order to build a stage that would provide additional revenue by facilitating concerts and other events. Prior to this, the team's three supporters' groups (Crew Supporters Union, Hudson Street Hooligans, and La Turbina Amarilla) sat apart because of differences between the groups ranging from age to ethnicity. The building of the stage forced the groups to come together into the north corner of the stadium, forming one large block of vocal supporters. The three groups formed the Nordecke ( /nɔːrdˈɛkə/), which is German for "north corner", celebrating the city's German heritage. In 2006 a large contingency of fans from the Nordecke began traveling together to support the Crew during their away campaigns. In late 2009/early 2010, the term "NorOnTour" grew popular on social networking, to describe the frequent fan traveling support.[109]

Mascot

Columbus Crew's first mascot was "Crew Cat", who was the franchise's mascot for almost 20 years.[110] Columbus's official mascot is "S.C", the son of "Crew Cat" that was introduced for the 2015 MLS season.[111] As new ownership was employed in the 2019 season, the older "Crew Cat" returned and attends games alongside S.C.

Rivalries

The Nordecke celebrating after Columbus scored a goal against the Chicago Fire in 2013 at Crew Stadium, now Historic Crew Stadium

The Crew has a rivalry with the Chicago Fire.[112] Columbus is roughly a six-hour drive away from Chicago. Due to the relatively close proximity of the two cities, it is not uncommon for supporters of both teams to make the trip to support their club in matches between the two. In the 2008 season, Columbus defeated Chicago in the Eastern Conference Championship match. In 1998, Chicago defeated Columbus for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

The Crew also plays for two rivalry cups during the regular season. One of the series is with Toronto FC for the Trillium Cup, due to the close proximity of the cities.[112] The Crew also contests FC Dallas for the Lamar Hunt Pioneer Cup. This trophy was created due to Lamar Hunt being the owner of both teams until his death.

As a lower-division club, FC Cincinnati supporters claimed the Crew as a rival, although some Columbus supporters did not consider the former USL team a rival.[113] The two sides first met in a 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match in front of 30,000 spectators, the largest non-final crowd for an Open Cup fixture. The match ended in a 1–0 win for FC Cincinnati [114][115] As Cincinnati moved to the league, the rivalry became solidified in league lore; this derby is known as the Hell is Real Derby, based on a Christian billboard along I-71 between Columbus and Cincinnati.[116][117]

Broadcasting

In 2016, Crew games aired on TWC Sports Channel (now Spectrum Sports), simulcast on Sinclair Broadcast Group-operated stations in Columbus. The majority of games aired on The CW affiliate WWHO, and selected games also aired on WSYX, WTTE, and WSYX's MyNetworkTV subchannel.[118][119] Dwight Burgess and Neil Sika served as co-hosts.[120]

In 2019, the team reached a deal with Fox Sports Ohio (now known as Bally Sports Ohio), placing all matches on either it or secondary channel Bally Sports Great Lakes.[121]

On March 1, 2019, the team made an announcement regarding their radio broadcasts. They stated that their English-language radio broadcasts would now be available on 97.1 WBNS-FM, and that Chris Doran would be the dedicated audio broadcaster. Additionally, the team announced that they would also have Spanish-language radio broadcasts, with Juan Valladares as the broadcaster. [122]

On February 21, 2020, the team announced Jordan Angeli replaced Dwight Burgess, becoming the first woman broadcaster in the club's history.[123]

With every MLS game available on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV via their rights deal in 2023, Crew games will be broadcast almost exclusively on this service, with exceptions for certain national linear television broadcast partners.[124]

Players and staff

For a more comprehensive list, see All-time Columbus Crew roster.

Current roster

As of January 17, 2024[125]

Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

No. Pos. Nation Player
2 DF United States USA Philip Quinton
4 DF France FRA Rudy Camacho
6 MF United States USA Darlington Nagbe (captain; DP)
8 MF United States USA Aidan Morris (HG)
9 FW Colombia COL Cucho Hernández (DP)
10 FW Uruguay URU Diego Rossi (DP)
14 MF Ghana GHA Yaw Yeboah
17 FW United States USA Christian Ramirez
18 DF Denmark DEN Malte Amundsen
19 FW Canada CAN Jacen Russell-Rowe (HG)
20 MF Romania ROU Alexandru Mățan
21 DF Ukraine UKR Yevhen Cheberko
No. Pos. Nation Player
22 DF United States USA Keegan Hughes (HG)
23 DF Canada CAN Mohamed Farsi
24 GK United States USA Evan Bush
25 MF United States USA Sean Zawadzki (HG)
27 FW United States USA Maximilian Arfsten
28 GK United States USA Patrick Schulte
30 MF United States USA Will Sands (HG)
31 DF Cape Verde CPV Steven Moreira
GK Guatemala GUA Nicholas Hagen
MF United States USA Taha Habroune (HG)
MF Colombia COL Marino Hinestroza
MF United States USA Derrick Jones

Team management

Front office
Investor-operators Dee and Jimmy Haslam
JW and Whitney Johnson
Dr. Pete Edwards
President Tim Bezbatchenko
Coaching staff
Head coach Wilfried Nancy
Assistant coach Kwame Ampadu
Assistant coach Yoann Damet
Goalkeeping coach Phil Boerger
Fitness coach Jules Gueguen
Video performance coach Maxime Chalier
Director of Performance Federico Pizzuto
Technical director Marc Nicholls
Crew Academy
Assistant general manager and
Crew 2 general manager[126]
Corey Wray
Director of player development Dan Lock
Academy head coaches Kelvin Jones
Gus Teren
Shahad Farahani
Bryan Rodrigues

Last updated: 01:30, November 28, 2023 (UTC)
Source: [1]

Head coach history

Main article: List of Columbus Crew head coaches

The Crew have had nine different head coaches since joining the league in 1996. Timo Liekoski, the only Finnish head coach in MLS history, was the first head coach in 1996, but started 6–16 and was fired midseason to be replaced by Tom Fitzgerald.[127] Sigi Schmid managed the team for three seasons (2006–08). Robert Warzycha was the head coach twice, the first time on an interim basis prior to Schmid's arrival and then immediately after Schmid left until September 2, 2013, when he was fired and Brian Bliss became the interim coach. On November 16, 2013, it was announced that Gregg Berhalter would become the head coach as well as the first sporting director in club history.[128] After Berhalter left to take over as coach of the United States men's national soccer team, Columbus hired Caleb Porter, who had previously been the head coach of the Portland Timbers in MLS and the Akron Zips men's soccer team in the NCAA. Due to results of the 2022 and 2021 seasons, Columbus fired Porter and would go on to hire Wilfried Nancy as head coach.

Fitzgerald and Warzycha are tied for the all-time leader in regular season wins (70).[129]

Name Nationality Tenure
Timo Liekoski  Finland December 5, 1995 – August 2, 1996
Tom Fitzgerald  United States August 2, 1996 – May 17, 2001
Greg Andrulis  United States May 17, 2001 – July 16, 2005
Robert Warzycha (interim)  Poland July 16, 2005 – October 20, 2005
Sigi Schmid  Germany October 20, 2005 – December 16, 2008
Robert Warzycha  Poland December 23, 2008 – September 2, 2013
Brian Bliss (interim)  United States September 2, 2013 – November 6, 2013
Gregg Berhalter  United States November 6, 2013 – December 2, 2018
Caleb Porter  United States January 4, 2019 – October 10, 2022
Wilfried Nancy  France December 6, 2022 – present

General manager and sporting director history

Name Nationality Tenure
Jamey Rootes  United States 1995–2000
Jim Smith  United States 2000–2004
Mark McCullers  United States 2004–2013
Gregg Berhalter  United States 2013–2018
Tim Bezbatchenko  United States 2019–present

Player development

Columbus Crew 2

Main article: Columbus Crew 2

On June 21, 2021, Major League Soccer announced the formation of a new professional league, which would act as a developmental program for its clubs.[130] The new league, which was unveiled on December 6, 2021, would be named MLS Next Pro and the Crew's team would be Columbus Crew 2.[131] The league and club compete at the Division III level. With the exception of special occasions such as championship matches, all home games take place at Historic Crew Stadium. Fans regularly refer to Columbus Crew 2 by their unofficial nickname, the Capybaras.[132]

Academy

The Columbus Crew Academy fields four non-professional teams. There are U13/14, U15, U17, and U19 clubs. The Crew has signed 15 alumni to First-team MLS contracts, of which 11 have appeared in a regular-season Crew match. Alumnus Wil Trapp was the first player in MLS history to be a homegrown captain.[133]

Notable alumni include Wil Trapp, Aboubacar Keita, Aidan Morris, Isaiah Parente, and Sean Zawadzki.[133]

The Crew formed a partnership with the Michigan Wolves youth soccer club in 2011, later extending the partnership another two years in 2014.[134][135][136]

In 2021, the Columbus Crew launched The Crew Network, which aims to promote soccer in Ohio and offer exclusive opportunities to boys, girls, coaches, and parents. Crew Network clubs receive various benefits, including technical and commercial support from the Crew, exposure for their brand, access to the Crew's coaching staff, and a direct pathway to the Columbus Crew Academy for high-potential players. Currently, there are 24 Crew Network clubs operating across Ohio.[137][138]

Honors

Major awards

National
Competitions Titles Seasons
MLS Cup 3 2008, 2020, 2023
Supporters' Shield 3 2004, 2008, 2009
U.S. Open Cup 1 2002
Continental
Competitions Titles Seasons
Campeones Cup 1 2021

Minor awards

Record

Year-by-year

Main article: List of Columbus Crew seasons

This is a partial list of the last five seasons completed by the Crew. For the full season-by-season history, see List of Columbus Crew seasons.

Season League Position Playoffs USOC Continental / Other Average
attendance
Top goalscorer(s)
Div League Pld W L D GF GA GD Pts PPG Conf. Overall Name(s) Goals
2019 1 MLS 34 10 16 8 39 47 −8 38 1.12 10th 20th DNQ Ro16 DNQ 14,856 United States Gyasi Zardes 13
2020 MLS 23 12 6 5 36 21 +15 41 1.78 3rd 4th W NH MLS is Back Tournament Ro16 3,761 United States Gyasi Zardes 15
2021 MLS 34 13 13 8 46 45 +1 47 1.38 9th 17th DNQ NH CONCACAF Champions League
QF
18,990 Armenia Lucas Zelarayán 13
2022 MLS 34 10 8 16 46 41 +5 46 1.35 8th 16th DNQ NH DNQ 19,237 Armenia Lucas Zelarayán 10
2023 MLS 34 16 9 9 67 46 +21 57 1.68 3rd 3rd W Ro16 Leagues Cup Ro32 20,286 Colombia Cucho Hernández 24

^ 1. Avg. attendance include statistics from league matches only.
^ 2. Top goalscorer(s) includes all goals scored in League, MLS Cup Playoffs, U.S. Open Cup, MLS is Back Tournament, CONCACAF Champions League, FIFA Club World Cup, and other competitive continental matches.

International tournaments

Columbus Crew in International Tournaments
Season Competition Round Club Home Away Aggregate
2001 CONCACAF Giants Cup Quarter-finals Costa Rica Saprissa 1–1 0–2 1–3
2003 CONCACAF Champions' Cup First round Panama Árabe Unido 3–0 1–2 4–2
Quarter-finals Mexico Morelia 2–0 0–6 2–6
2009–10 CONCACAF Champions League Group C Puerto Rico Puerto Rico Islanders 2–0 1–1 2nd
Mexico Cruz Azul 0–2 0–5
Costa Rica Saprissa 1–1 1–0
Quarter-finals Mexico Toluca 2–2 2–3 4–5
2010–11 CONCACAF Champions League Group B Guatemala Municipal 1–0 1–2 2nd
Mexico Santos Laguna 1–0 0–1
Trinidad and Tobago Joe Public 3–0 4–1
Quarter-finals United States Real Salt Lake 0–0 1–4 1–4
2021 CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16 Nicaragua Real Estelí 1–0 4–0 5–0
Quarter-finals Mexico Monterrey 2–2 0–3 2–5
2021 Campeones Cup Final Mexico Cruz Azul 2–0
2023 Leagues Cup Central 1 United States St. Louis City 2–1 1st
Mexico Club América 4–1
Round of 32 United States Minnesota United 3–3 3–3 (3–4 p)
2024 CONCACAF Champions Cup Round of 16 United States
2024 Leagues Cup Round of 32

Columbus holds a 13–6–3 all-time record in international friendlies.[citation needed]

Player records

Main article: List of Columbus Crew records and statistics

Appearances

As of November 26, 2023[139]
# Name Years Signed from MLS Playoffs† Open Cup Continental Total
1 United States Chad Marshall 2004–2013 Stanford Cardinal 253 11 8 5 277
2 United States Mike Clark 1996–2003 Richmond Kickers 221 22 18 4 265
3 United States Jeff Cunningham 1998–2004
2011
South Florida Bulls
FC Dallas
203 17 17 6 243
4 United States Eddie Gaven 2006–2013 MetroStars 209 9 10 13 241
5 Iraq Justin Meram 2011–2017
2018–2019
Michigan Wolverines
Orlando City
206 15 11 2 234
6 Argentina Federico Higuaín 2012–2019 Colón 193 14 3 0 210
7 United States Brian Maisonneuve 1996–2004 Indiana Hoosiers 172 17 13 6 208
8 United States Josh Williams 2010–2014
2017–present
Cleveland Internationals
Toronto FC
183 12 4 7 206
9 United States Wil Trapp 2013–2020 Akron Zips 185 15 5 0 205
10 United States Brian McBride 1996–2003 VfL Wolfsburg 161 22 13 3 199

Bold denotes players still playing for the club.

† Includes MLS is Back Tournament knockout round.

Goals

As of November 26, 2023[139]
# Name Years Signed from MLS Playoffs† Open Cup Continental Total
1 United States Brian McBride 1996–2003 VfL Wolfsburg 62 9 8 0 79
2 United States Jeff Cunningham 1998–2004
2011
South Florida Bulls
FC Dallas
64 3 6 1 74
3 United States Gyasi Zardes 2018–2022 LA Galaxy 54 4 1 2 61
4 Argentina Federico Higuaín 2012–2019 Colón 55 4 0 0 59
5 Trinidad and Tobago Stern John 1998–1999 New Orleans Riverboat Gamblers 44 8 3 0 55
6 United States Edson Buddle 2001–2005 Long Island Rough Riders 42 2 4 4 52
7 Iraq Justin Meram 2011–2017
2018–2019
Michigan Wolverines
Orlando City
38 3 2 0 43
8 Armenia Lucas Zelarayán 2020–2023 Tigres UANL 38 2 0 2 42
9 United States Eddie Gaven 2006–2013 MetroStars 35 2 2 1 40
10 Argentina Guillermo Barros Schelotto 2007–2010 Boca Juniors 33 2 1 2 38

Bold denotes players still playing for the club.

† Includes MLS is Back Tournament knockout round.

Assists

As of November 26, 2023[139]
# Name Years Signed from MLS Playoffs Open Cup Continental Total
1 Poland Robert Warzycha 1996–2002 Honvéd 61 5 4 1 71
2 Argentina Federico Higuaín 2012–2019 Colón 63 5 1 0 69
3 United States Jeff Cunningham 1998–2004
2011
South Florida Bulls
FC Dallas
44 5 7 0 56
4 United States Brian McBride 1996–2003 VfL Wolfsburg 45 3 1 2 51
5 Argentina Guillermo Barros Schelotto 2007–2010 Boca Juniors 41 7 0 0 48
6 United States Brian Maisonneuve 1996–2004 Indiana Hoosiers 37 3 1 0 41
7 Armenia Lucas Zelarayán 2020–2023 Tigres UANL 30 5 0 2 37
8 Iraq Justin Meram 2011–2017
2018–2019
Michigan Wolverines
Orlando City
33 2 1 0 36
9 Portugal Pedro Santos 2017–2022 Braga 34 0 1 0 35
United States Brian West 1998–2003 Virginia Cavaliers 29 2 4 0 35

Bold denotes players still playing for the club.

Shutouts

As of November 26, 2023[139]
# Name Years Signed from MLS Playoffs Open Cup Continental Total
1 United States William Hesmer 2007–2012 Kansas City Wizards 41 1 0 3 45
2 United States Jon Busch 2002–2006 Hershey Wildcats 25 1 2 1 29
3 Curaçao Eloy Room 2019–2023 PSV Eindhoven 25 1 0 2 28
4 United States Zack Steffen 2016–2019 SC Freiburg 23 3 0 0 26
5 United States Steve Clark 2014–2016 Hønefoss BK 22 1 0 0 23
United States Andy Gruenebaum 2006–2013 Kentucky Wildcats 18 0 2 3 23
7 United States Mark Dougherty 1998–2001 Tampa Bay Mutiny 10 2 2 0 14
8 United States Brad Friedel 1996–1997 Galatasaray 11 1 0 0 12
9 United States Tom Presthus 2000–2003 D.C. United 9 0 0 1 10
10 United States Patrick Schulte 2022–present Saint Louis Billikens 7 2 0 0 9

Bold denotes players still playing for the club.

Captains

[140][141][142][143][144]

Name Years
South Africa Doctor Khumalo 1996
Argentina Marcelo Carrera 1997
United States Thomas Dooley 1998
United States Thomas Dooley
United States Brian McBride
United States Mike Lapper
1999
United States Mike Lapper 2000
United States Mike Clark 2001
United States Brian McBride
United States Brian Maisonneuve
United States Tom Presthus
2002
United States Mike Clark 2003
United States Robin Fraser 2004–2006
United States Frankie Hejduk 2006–2010
United States Chad Marshall 2011–2012
Argentina Federico Higuaín 2013
United States Michael Parkhurst 2014–2016
United States Wil Trapp 2017–2019
Ghana Jonathan Mensah 2020–2022
United States Darlington Nagbe 2023

Average attendance

Sources:[145][146][147][148]

Season Regular season Playoffs
1996[a] 18,950 20,807
1997 15,043 11,304
1998 12,275 12,094
1999 17,696 10,983
2000 15,451 missed playoffs
2001 17,551 20,883
2002 17,429 11,624
2003 16,250 missed playoffs
2004 16,872 15,224
2005 12,916 missed playoffs
2006 13,294 missed playoffs
2007 15,230 missed playoffs
2008 14,622 17,613
2009 14,175 10,109
2010 14,642 10,322
2011 12,185 no home games in playoffs
2012 14,397 missed playoffs
2013 16,080 missed playoffs
2014 16,881 9,040
2015 16,985 20,797
2016 17,125 missed playoffs
2017 15,439 17,853
2018 12,447 12,892
2019 14,856 missed playoffs
2020 4,138* 1,500**
2021 16,583 missed playoffs
2022 19,237 missed playoffs
2023 20,314 20,387
All-time 15,323 13,965
Key
Attendance affected by the COVID-19 pandemic
* Attendance was 17,473 Pre-COVID and 1,471 Post-COVID
** Attendance was capped at 1,500 due to COVID restrictions
  1. ^ All-time highest home attendance: 31,550 on September 15, 1996 at Ohio Stadium.

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