Since changing names and logos is all the rage these days, let’s agree to alter the meaning of the three stars in the new Major League Soccer crest. Instead of “club, country and community,” they will now symbolize the principles that underpin the league’s brand, its structure, and the message it sends to dedicated fans. They now represent “conformity, cloning and cowardice.”
Those three stars represent the Holy Trinity of American football. Within three there is one: the unique entity. That single league structure cultivates a collective and unavoidable deference to the whole, as well as a persuasive urge to line up, mingle, and follow. Standing out or spending more, even if it leads to more distinctive teams, better television ratings or that elusive Concacaf Champions League title, would constitute an assault on the inviolable single entity. As the seasons go by, it seems that MLS has become a Christopher Nolan character. Beginning, a system governed by inverse entropy where disorder decreases and individual components settle and become more and more alike.
The new owners of the new Columbus Crew, now Columbus SC, were heroes two years ago when they cemented the team’s rescue from oblivion. Dee, Jimmy Haslam and Dr. Pete Edwards were drawn into an unprecedented wave of activism, an organic effort called ‘Save the Crew’ that injected the organization with a level of authenticity and grassroots prestige unique to American football. Those owners deserve considerable credit. But the first MLS club survived because it was supported by its fans, and it was the best story in the sport. The investment value and visibility of the new owners increased because of those fans and their devotion. It was strong proof that clubs derive value and meaning from the traditions they uphold and the communities they represent.
It has never been clearer than last month, when owners and executives who lost track of their mission as stewards of community assets were reminded in no uncertain terms that their terms have limits. The European Super League was a declaration of war against the notion that clubs derive value and meaning from traditions and community. For those 12 teams from England, Italy and Spain, growth and globalization were the main drivers. Appealing to fans around the world, even if it meant breaking ties with home, was the goal. Local fans would line up, of course.
Except they didn’t, at least in England. They protested. They rebelled. Along with politicians and the media, supporters reminded their club stewards that livelihood comes from the roots. It is incomprehensible, but somehow unsurprising, that the Crew’s owners, beneficiaries as they are of the hard work and dedication of fans and local officials, ignored those scenes from the surroundings (and in the case of Old Trafford, inside) of the English stadiums while looking for a rebrand. nobody wanted, and did it without consulting.
When news broke Sunday night of the review, it features the removal of the 25-year-old Columbus Crew name (the club claims ‘Crew’ will remain a nickname in the future) and a boring, minimalist pennant logo. which is a confusing demotion. Columbus fans issued a statement saying that no group of supporters was consulted or involved in the rebrand.
“The Crew has been the heart of the club since its inception. It has served as our rallying cry when we had to save the relocation team, ”Nordecke wrote. “We condemn these changes and, more importantly, the lack of transparency in this process.”
Their opinions were probably not considered for the same reason that the 12 European rebels did not ask for comment on the idea of the Super League: the locals will always line up. What matters is the global brand.
We hear it over and over, from MLS team after MLS team: “We want to be a global brand.” When unveiling the incongruous and derived name from the city of St. Louis last summer, owner Carolyn Kindle Betz said she wanted MLS to put her market “on the international map” and was intrigued by the brand “once. that I began to educate myself on why ‘City’ is an international name. ” Columbus SC President and CEO Tim Bezbatchenko, who was quoted in Monday’s official announcement, used the phrase “global soccer scene” to describe his club’s ambitions.
Columbus and St. Louis will not be global brands. Chicago, Boston and Washington are hardly global brands.
To be a global brand, to appeal to a global audience, the club name must follow British / European conventions, apparently. It doesn’t matter that the New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Lakers are world-renowned, that the three MLS Cascadia clubs (Sounders, Timbers and Whitecaps) do quite well, or that the LA Galaxy remains the only legitimate global brand. of the MLS (maybe not) on the name). In their rush to attract new fans – the hardcore fans to hell – and regardless of the crushing monotony that engulfs the league, MLS owners are ignoring names that could stand out in favor of the safe and the same. They would rather sound like they are from England or Spain than from a place like Columbus or St. Louis. And so The Crew and Montreal Impact are gone, as are the travels, roots and traditions that both names embodied. Additionally, each of the 11 expansion teams that have joined the league since 2015 has chosen a British / European name. There are three City, two United, four FC, one SC and one Inter.
Choosing City FC over something more local and original is lazy and shortsighted as it simply highlights MLS’s unique entity structure and reluctance to deviate. But erasing a name like Crew, which had so much legitimate history and was later inextricably linked to the club’s dramatic rescue, is almost an insult. The new logo is bland and nonsensical, and robs the league of a distinctive brand. Quick, are there other teams in Ohio that use a ‘C’? It all highlights the fact that MLS teams are not encouraged or allowed to have their own identities, or their own quirks or customs. In the end, they are appendages of the same whole, incentivized to follow the same trend in a single file, an inauthentic search for authenticity.
It’s been pointed out time and again: This manifests itself on game day, when MLS often takes on the look of the intramural league it apparently aspires to be. The team names and logos are infuriatingly similar (the new Crew badge joins nine others released since 2014 that are predominantly black) and uniforms are interchangeable. Fire up an MLS game and guess who’s playing. That strategy obviously works wonders for ratings.
The team formerly known as Montreal Impact ditched their blue and black stripes (at least there used to be some blue) for an all-black uniform. Atlanta’s five red stripes remain, but are imperceptible. Equipment now appears completely black (or completely white on the road). The new Austin FC home kit looks completely black from behind, to the sides or from a distance. Wear all white on the road. While the San Jose Earthquakes eventually returned in blue jerseys, it was several years after the 2014 promise that they would be primarily a blue team was revoked. Despite selling pink, Inter Miami wears completely white or completely black. LAFC is completely black. The New York Red Bulls now frequently wear black, perhaps as a tribute to their more successful rivals in Washington. Charlotte FC has hinted in a completely black uniform. And Columbus ditched his iconic yellow jersey this season for, you guessed it, black or white.
It’s as if MLS has turned into a youth recreational league, where kids bring their unique, reversible jersey to the field every Saturday. Clubs are constructions that allow games to be played. Too many (a handful of exceptions remain) get away with being more than just living entities breathing their own unique DNA. But the trajectory is not good, and the only traditions that seem worth following are those that are not ours. Instead, the idea seems to be to celebrate the league, the whole, rather than encouraging teams to pitch and then adhere to their own identities or birthright. MLS is the global brand. It is the only brand.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.