Columbus Crew

New stadium, old name, almost, and same great fans

A fan’s guide – the club from formation to today

Columbus Crew was one of the ten founding members of Major League Soccer under the ownership of legendary American sports entrepreneur Lamar Hunt.

Son of a Texas oil tycoon, Hunt helped establish the American Football League as a rival to NFL, coining the phrase ‘Super Bowl’ for the playoff showdown. An early champion of soccer after watching the 1966 World Cup in England, Hunt became a prime mover behind the NASL, keeping faith with the game even after losing millions of dollars.

A founding investor in MLS, Hunt promised and delivered the league’s first soccer-specific stadium for Columbus, bringing in his son Clark to oversee the development of successful franchises both in Ohio and in Kansas City.

Mapfre Stadium/Ian Thomson

In Columbus, the team selected United States international striker Brian McBride with the first pick in MLS’ inaugural player draft ahead of the 1996 season.

Ohio State University’s 100,000-seat college football stadium served as the team’s inappropriately sized home for its first three years. Columbus moved into the groundbreaking 20,000-seat Columbus Crew Stadium in 1999. 

Without a major sponsor until 2015 when Madrid-based insurance company Mapfre stepped in, the stadium became known as America’s Azteca after the U.S. national team beat Mexico on a freezing MidWest winter’s night in 2001, the 2-0 scoreline then repeated in iconic fashion in three subsequent World Cup qualifying matches until 2013.

Mapfre Stadium/Ian Thomson

Columbus Crew won its first trophy in 2002 by lifting the U.S. Open Cup, named after Lamar Hunt. The team consistently reached the MLS playoffs during its first decade without making any impression in the postseason.

That changed in 2008 when former Boca Juniors and Argentina playmaker Guillermo Barros Schelotto inspired the Black & Gold to its sole MLS championship after finishing the regular season with the league’s best record. Schelotto fittingly picked up the MLS Most Valuable Player award.

In 2013, Precourt Sports Ventures purchased the Columbus franchise from Hunt Sports Group and set about significantly rebranding the club. A new team logo was created and the initials “SC” were added to the official title. Taking care of matters on the pitch, later USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter oversaw Crew’s regular participation in the postseason.

Columbus Crew fans/Ian Thomson

In his most successful campaign, the 2015 season, Crew SC won the MLS Eastern Conference and earned the right to host the MLS Cup Final. Western Conference winners Portland Timbers then shaded the contest by 2-1 to deny Columbus a second MLS crown.

A goal up in 27 seconds, the visitors took advantage of more daydreaming by Crew defenders to make it 2-0 on seven minutes. Crew’s top scorer, a half-fit Kei Kamara, grabbed one back but it was always an uphill battle for the home side.

After a surprisingly lackluster 2016 season, owner Anthony Precourt got itchy feet and began to look at moving his franchise to Austin, Texas. Crowds had dropped to an average of 15,400 in the regular season and, although Columbus had brushed aside New York City in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Precourt had already announced his intention.

Mapfre Stadium/Ian Thomson

A full house of just over 21,000 packed the Mapfre Stadium for the Eastern Conference Final with Toronto, a tense 0-0 draw that set up the Canadians for a narrow 1-0 victory across the border a week later. For Crew fans, however, the battle was only just beginning.

Persuading a ‘very reluctant’ MLS Commissioner Don Garber that his franchise would have to be moved from the first soccer-specific stadium in MLS, Precourt unwittingly inspired to a proactive grassroots movement in Columbus, Save the Crew. Raising the profile of the issue enough for their case to be backed by politicians from Ohio, Save the Crew found a loophole in state law to prevent Precourt and MLS from moving the club away.

While news of the legal challenges dominated the headlines through the 2018, Gregg Berhalter took over the U.S. men’s team, replaced by Portland Timbers coach Caleb Porter. Behind the scenes, Precourt’s plan was foundering, allowing Cleveland Browns owner to step in and buy the club, with his wife Dee and former team physician Pete Edwards as co-owners. 

Mapfre Stadium/Ian Thomson

Officially taking over on New Year’s Day 2019, the new owners also announced the construction of a new stadium in downtown Columbus, and thanked the efforts of Save the Crew – henceforth known as Saved the Crew. Precourt, meanwhile, set to work a new franchise in Austin.

All the while, backing Columbus during the whole process had been new local rivals FC Cincinnati, an MLS expansion arrival in 2019. Playing one last, pandemic-affected season at Mapfre Stadium in 2020, Crew surprised everyone by making it through to the MLS Cup Final, then winning their second title in front of the 1,500 fans allowed in.

After a disappointing campaign in 2019, Caleb Porter had lined up his former Portland Timbers (and Akron Zips) star Darlington Nagbe alongside fellow key signing, Lucas Zelariyán, to run his midfield for 2020. While the Argentina-born, Armenian international duly won MVP in the 3-0 win over Seattle, Nagbe missed out on winning a third MLS medal with three different clubs when he tested positive for Covid prematch. Porter became the third coach to win the MLS Cup with two different clubs.

Mapfre Stadium/Ian Thomson

With so few to witness the triumph, the 2020 final would have been a strange farewell to Mapfre Stadium. Instead, halfway through the 2021 campaign, in a game against Chicago Fire, there was a huge, communal love-in for the first soccer-specific stadium in MLS. Celebrated with fireworks, the now renamed Historic Crew Stadium became the home ground for Columbus Crew 2, the MLS Next Pro side. The scene of three historic 2-0 victories over Mexico in vital World Cup qualifying games, the stadium will always have a special place in U.S. soccer lore.

In July 2021, Crew played their first game at Field, $314 million’s worth of soccer-specific stadium by the Arena District and the Nationwide Arena, close to the city center. Soon afterwards, the new venue witnessed its first Crew triumph, a 2-0 win over Cruz Azul, their Mexican champion counterpart in the Campeones Cup.

League form was less impressive, however, and two straight failures to qualify for the playoffs cost Caleb Porter his job before the 2022 season drew to a close. USMNT, meanwhile, continued their lucky tradition at Columbus by beating Costa Rica and El Salvador before a full house at the new stadium in the push to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.

Stadium Guide

The field of dreams – and the story behind it

Personifying a whole new era in the life of Columbus Crew, Field is yet another soccer-specific stadium, replacing its revered predecessor, now called Historic Crew Stadium. Constructed at a cost of $314 million just northwest of the city center where Huntington Park has been attracting baseball fans since 2009, the Crew’s new home is very much purpose-built.

The 20,371 spectators sit close to the action, the 3,345 in the safe-standing supporters’ section, the new Nordecke (sections 124-130), at a steep angle to a pitch of natural grass. A beer garden stretches between this north end and Nordecke Drive behind. You’ll find the The Pub and Crew store at the opposite end, at the southeast corner.

Premium seating in the Huntington Field Club, West Field Club and River Club lines the west sideline, the East Field Club and Rail Club along the east sideline. Visiting supporters are allocated section 209 in the far southwest corner of the stadium.

Mapfre Stadium is now where Columbus Crew 2 plays. located on the grounds of the Ohio Expo Center and State Fairgrounds. The first soccer-specific stadium in MLS soon became a fortress, the drawbridge first pulled up in 2001 when the U.S. men’s national team famously beat Mexico 2-0 here, freezing temperatures and a red-hot atmosphere aiding the hosts. Until then, ‘home advantage’ in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying region had meant the U.S. treated to hostile welcomes in tropical Central America.

The same scoreline was then repeated in subsequent competitive fixtures with America’s arch rivals in 2005 and 2009, by which time the north stands had been transformed into the Nordecke, a communal Crew supporters’ corner named in honor of local German heritage.


Going to the stadium – tips and timings

Columbus is the largest metropolitan area in the U.S. without either a local or intercity rail connection. The Central Ohio Transit System (COTA) provides the city’s bus network.

Two lines run to the Field: #3 (every 45mins-1hr) and the #8 (15-30mins), both heading up S 4th Street close to Ohio Statehouse and Capitol Square towards Nationwide Blvd. They stop at Nationwide Blvd & McConnell Blvd and Neil Ave & Brodbelt Lane, both a 15min walk from the stadium down W Nationwide Blvd. 

After the game, the 3 and 8 call at Nationwide Blvd & McConnell Blvd, just past the Experience Columbus tourist information center.

Those not holding premium tickets should park east of the railroad tracks in general parking lots G1-G6 between W Nationwide Blvd and W Long St, and G8-G10 around Nationwide Arena. Lots open 4hrs before kickoff on weekends, 2hrs before kickoff on weekdays.

Parking can be booked online through the club or the ParkColumbus App through the App Store or Google Play.

Cyclists can connect to Astor Park via the Olentargy River bridge that opened the same day as the new stadium. Local outlet Franklinton Cycle Works provides a bike valet service from 4hrs before kickoff on the stadium side of the pedestrian bridge.

Columbus Crew 2 plays at Historic Crew Stadium, the former Mapfre, next to the I-71. Take exit 111 onto 17th Ave., with ample General Parking as you enter through Gates 14-16. To take a taxi from town, Columbus Yellow Cab (614-444-4444) should charge around $15.


When, where, how, and how much

Single match tickets available online for the whole season. There’s General Admission to the Nordecke ($34), while seats at the opposite end in sections 206-208 and in the higher-tier 242-244 of the east sideline cost around $40-$45. Closer to the goal in sections 104-108, you’ll pay around $50-$60, while seats nearer the halfway line on the east side, and in sections 121-122 and 112-113 towards the corner flags along the west sideline will cost you around $80-$90.

Groups and companies can hire boxes, clubs and party decks at prime spots over the halfway line on either sideline.

For in-person sales, the box office in the southwest corner of the stadium opens 4hrs before kickoff on match days, although availability might be extremely limited. For further information, email


Jerseys, souvenirs, and all kinds of gear

You’ll find the Crew Shop (Tue-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 11am-5pm, match days 96mins before kickoff) in the southeast corner of the stadium at 500 W Nationwide Blvd. 

Gold jerseys with black trim and change ones of black with grey markings and gold trim are priced at $170, scarves also come in yellow or black, while T-shirts display the smokestack close to the new stadium, dating back to 1903 and recently painted in Crew colours.


Enjoy the full matchday experience

With a large beer garden behind the Nordecke end, scattered parking lots, and Downtown sports bars much closer to the stadium, mass tailgating is a thing of the past at Columbus Crew. 

The best option is the parking lot at Hofbräuhaus Columbus, a traditional Bavarian bierhaus beside Courtyard by Marriott Hotel, from where you can head over the river to the stadium.

Where to Drink

Matchday beers at the stadium and downtown

The stadium has two main drinking destinations: the outdoor matchday Nordecke Beer Garden behind the north end and The Pub in the southeast corner, by the Crew Shop.

The closest bar is Betty’s on W Nationwide Blvd, a simple but cozy spot with TV sports and pool, long popular with Clippers fans. Slightly further away yet still convenient, Boston’s on the corner of W Nationwide Blvd and West St, close to the bus stop for services back to town, is a chain pizzeria lined with TVs for sports action.

With its German heritage, a thriving contemporary craft-beer scene and a Brewery District Downtown, Columbus is one of the best destinations in MLS for pre- and postmatch revelry.

The best, most popular and nearest option for Columbus fans is Fourth Street Bar & Grill, one block from the Mapfre Stadium and meeting place of the Crew Union. Beers of every stripe are sunk with abandon against a backdrop of Black & Gold iconography on bare-brick walls.

Schmidt’s in the German Village is worth the trip to Columbus alone. The original Schmidt’s meat packing business opened in 1886 before this restaurant opened nearby in 1967 using authentic German recipes. Signature sausage platters featuring bratwursts and Frankfurters cost about $13, washed down with lashings of imported German beer.

For a more Irish pub feel, The Three-Legged Mare in the Arena District contains 15 TVs and two giant projection screens all focused on sport, where darts and pub quizzes are taken equally seriously.

Land-Grant Brewing Company is another excellent craft brewer operating out of a renovated 12,000-square-foot factory building in the East Franklinton neighborhood west of Downtown. Tours of the site are available on Saturday afternoons. Land-Grant brews Glory, an American wheat beer designated as the official brew for Columbus supporters. Glasses and growlers bearing the Crew SC logo are also available.


Following the local soccer scene

1979 Columbus Magic joins the American Soccer League, founded in the 1930s and increasingly unstable given the growth of the North American Soccer League. The Magic shares Franklin County Stadium with the Columbus Clippers minor-league baseball team. The Magic wins the ASL’s Eastern Division and reaches the national championship game before losing by a single goal to the Sacramento Gold.

1980 The Magic folds after its second season in the ASL.

1984 Columbus Capitals plays in the newly launched American Indoor Soccer Association with games taking place at Battelle Hall on the current site of the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Yugoslav forward Lesh Shkreli leads the team and the league with 59 goals to pick up the AISA Most Valuable Player award.

1986 The Capitals disbands at the end of its second indoor season.

1994 Columbus Xoggz joins a third-tier nationwide league that becomes known as the United States Interregional Soccer League with games held at Dublin Coffman High School.

1996 Columbus Crew begins play in Major League Soccer at the vast Ohio Stadium. The Xoggz changes its name to the Ohio Xoggz before folding at the end of the USISL season.

1997 Ohio indoor franchise the Canton Invaders relocates to the state capital and changes its name to the Columbus Invaders for one single, disastrous season in the National Professional Soccer League. The team is best remembered – perhaps only remembered – for its record 52-18 defeat to local rivals Cleveland Crunch at Battelle Hall.

1999 Columbus Crew, later named Mapfre, Stadium opens, the first soccer-specific one to be built by an MLS team.

2001 The stadium stages a landmark game in USMNT history, the legendary dos a cero 2-0 win over Mexico in freezing conditions. Columbus would then keep its talismanic status for the American team, which achieves three more 2-0 victories against Mexico here until eventual defeat in 2016.

2003 The stadium cohosts Women’s World Cup, accommodating a crowd of nearly 23,000 for USWNT’s game with North Korea.

2008 Crew wins their first MLS Cup, team captain and club legend Frankie Hejduk scoring a late goal to seal a 3-1 win over New York Red Bulls.

2015 Crew plays their first MLS Cup Final in Columbus, a devastating 2-1 defeat to Portland Timbers.

2017-18 Crew under threat of franchise being moved to Austin, Texas, galvanizing a huge fan movement against it. 

2019 Ownership passes to Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, his wife Dee, and club physician Pete Edwards. Vow to build new stadium.

2020 Crew wins their first MLS Cup Final in Columbus, before a tiny crowd limited by pandemic restrictions.

2021 Emotional farewell to Mapfre Stadium, now called Historic Crew Stadium and used by MLS Next Pro team Columbus Crew 2. New stadium unveiled, Field, in the Arena District close to Downtown Columbus.