The Team of Firsts had the first first in MLS history, which was the awarding of the very first MLS franchise.
In a bit of revisionist history, some scoff that Columbus was first merely because it was first alphabetically among the seven teams awarded that day. That is not the case. Boston was also awarded a team, although that club would swap “Boston” for “New England” when the brand identities were revealed in October of 1995.
The reason Columbus had the distinction of being named first is because it was the only city to hit Major League Soccer’s threshold of 10,000 season ticket deposits. Obviously, a one-team league wouldn’t cut it, so other cities were admitted despite falling short of that requirement. Columbus had secured over 11,500 deposits, and on the day the city eclipsed the 10,000 mark, there was also a solar eclipse. As a result, the name Columbus Eclipse was part of the official application package. Like an eclipse itself, that name idea was fleeting.
Obtaining a team in the first place is obviously a huge moment, but I have very little recollection of this event. I was home in Cleveland on summer break from Ohio University. All I recall is seeing a blurb in the Plain Dealer and thinking, “Cool. Ohio got a team. I’ll be able to go to some games.”
(Little did I know. Ha!)
The reaction in Columbus was understandably a little more profound. The college town between Cleveland and Cincinnati was finally joining the big leagues. At the precipice of its phenomenal growth as a city, Columbus was at the forefront of soccer’s growth as a professional sport in America.
“This is a terrific opportunity, and one that's been a long time coming but is finally here,” Columbus Mayor Greg Lashutka said on that historic afternoon. “I think it's a great way to enter the major leagues.”
Since then, our friends the Columbus Blue Jackets were also born, so now Columbus has major league professional sports year-round.