The History of the Columbus Crew: From MLS Founding Member to Championship Contender

The History of the Columbus Crew: From MLS Founding Member to Championship Contender

Are you curious about the journey of the Columbus Crew in Major League Soccer (MLS)? In this article, we will take a deep dive into the rich history of the Columbus Crew, from being one of the founding members of the MLS to their current status as a championship contender. Join us as we explore the key moments, players, and achievements that have shaped the Columbus Crew into the formidable team they are today.

The Founding Years

The Columbus Crew was established in 1994 as one of the original ten Major League Soccer (MLS) franchises. The city of Columbus, Ohio was chosen as the location for the team, and the name "Crew" was selected to represent the blue-collar ethic of the city’s workforce.

Formation of the Columbus Crew

The Columbus Crew was founded by Lamar Hunt, who was also one of the founding investors of MLS. Hunt’s vision was to bring professional soccer to the United States and create a team that would be embraced by the local community.

Early Seasons in MLS

The Columbus Crew had a successful start in MLS, making the playoffs in their inaugural season in 1996. Led by head coach Tom Fitzgerald and star player Brian McBride, the team quickly became a fan favorite in Columbus.

Inaugural MLS Cup Victory

In 2008, the Columbus Crew achieved their greatest success to date by winning the MLS Cup. Under the guidance of head coach Sigi Schmid, the team finished at the top of the Eastern Conference and went on to defeat the New York Red Bulls in the MLS Cup final. The victory solidified the Columbus Crew’s status as a championship contender in MLS.

Ups and Downs

The Columbus Crew has had its fair share of ups and downs since joining Major League Soccer as one of the founding members in 1996. The team quickly made a name for itself with a strong inaugural season, making it to the playoffs in its first year.

Struggles in the Mid-2000s

However, the mid-2000s were a challenging time for the Crew. The team struggled to find success on the field and faced financial difficulties off the field. Attendance numbers dropped, and the team failed to make the playoffs for several consecutive seasons.

Rebuilding and Playoff Runs

In the late 2000s, the Crew began a rebuilding phase that would lead to a resurgence in the team’s performance. Under the leadership of head coach Sigi Schmid, the Crew made significant improvements and went on to win the MLS Cup in 2008. This success was followed by several playoff runs in the years that followed, solidifying the Crew’s reputation as a championship contender.

Transition to New Ownership

In 2018, the Crew faced a new challenge when the team’s previous owner announced plans to relocate the franchise to Austin, Texas. However, a passionate fan base and community support led to a groundbreaking agreement that kept the team in Columbus under new ownership. This transition marked a new chapter for the Crew, with renewed energy and enthusiasm for the future of the team.

Championship Contender

The Columbus Crew has transformed from a founding member of the MLS to a team that is now considered a championship contender. This transformation can be attributed to several key factors that have elevated the team to new heights.

Acquisition of Key Players

One of the main reasons for the Columbus Crew’s rise to championship contender status is their strategic acquisition of key players. The team has made significant signings that have bolstered their roster and added depth to their lineup. Players such as Lucas Zelarayan, Gyasi Zardes, and Darlington Nagbe have all made significant contributions to the team’s success and have helped propel them to the top of the standings.

Successful Coaching Changes

Another factor that has played a crucial role in the Columbus Crew’s journey to becoming a championship contender is the successful coaching changes that have taken place within the organization. Under the guidance of head coach Caleb Porter, the team has seen a significant improvement in their performance on the field. Porter’s tactical acumen and ability to motivate his players have been instrumental in the team’s success and have helped them reach new heights.

Recent Playoff Success

In recent years, the Columbus Crew has experienced a resurgence in the playoffs, further solidifying their status as a championship contender. The team has made deep runs in the postseason, culminating in their MLS Cup victory in 2020. This success has not only boosted the team’s confidence but has also earned them the respect of their competitors in the league.

Overall, the Columbus Crew’s journey from MLS founding member to championship contender is a testament to the team’s hard work, dedication, and strategic decision-making. With a talented roster, a successful coaching staff, and a track record of playoff success, the Columbus Crew is poised to continue their momentum and compete for championships in the years to come.


In conclusion, the history of the Columbus Crew is a testament to the growth and evolution of Major League Soccer. From being one of the founding members of the league to becoming a championship contender, the Crew have solidified their place in American soccer history. With a passionate fan base, a storied past, and a promising future, the Columbus Crew continue to inspire soccer fans across the country. As they continue to strive for excellence on and off the field, it is clear that the Crew will always hold a special place in the hearts of soccer enthusiasts everywhere.