On June 15, 1994, Major League Soccer announced that Columbus, Ohio, would be one of the first ten U.S. cities to have a professional soccer team. The team became known as the Columbus Crew, in recognition of Columbus's manufacturing past.
The Columbus Crew played its first game in 1996. During the team's first three seasons, the Crew played all home games at Ohio Stadium at The Ohio State University. On May 15, 1999, Columbus Crew Stadium, the first soccer-specific stadium in the United States, opened its doors, and all Crew home games have been played there ever since.
Columbus residents embraced the Crew. The first season attendance at games varied from a low of 7,338 fans to a high of 38,633, with the team averaging nearly 17,000 fans throughout the season. The Crew made the playoffs in its first season but did not advance beyond the first round. The team followed up this first season with three straight appearances in the conference finals, only to lose all three seasons to the D.C. United. The Crew continued to play admirably the next five seasons, only missing the playoffs in 2000 and 2003, although the team only made it to the conference finals, losing to the New England Revolution, in 2002.