Eight by Eight’s Grant Czubinski on why MLS’s new identity is great for the league
If you haven’t heard by now, Major League Soccer has a new identity. And, like almost anything involving MLS, it hasn’t come without controversy.
After an early morning announcement, fans flooded Twitter with their opinions on the league’s new logo, which is a basic crest that utilizes “adaptive colorways” for each league club. Some praised the bold—and certainly different— design as a departure from MLS’s current identity. Others bemoaned its minimalist lines and accused its designers of lacking panache and creativity. There is truth to both sides of the argument, but what is most important about MLS’s new branding is that it ushers in a new era for the league, an era where clubs are paramount and not subordinate to the league office.
Allowing each club to have its own version of the MLS logo grants, at least symbolically, autonomy. This is what MLS needs: more focus on individual clubs and not reports about the constant machinations of the league office. No more “blind draws” to determine where the next Jermaine Jones plays. No more refusals to grant a player a six month contract (see the bungled attempt to sign Sacha Kljestan prior to the transfer deadline). Players and clubs should have the ultimate say in roster decisions, and this new logo signifies that MLS is ready to take the spotlight off of itself and cede more control to its member clubs, which is what fans have been clamoring for.
The old logo (that many are now clinging to) is dated and clunky. Personally, I hated the foot, which conveyed an archaic 90s aura reflective of MLS 1.0 and the league’s problematic early years. The new crest is an embodiment of what the league has been saying for the past few years and outlines the goals of the #MLSNEXT campaign: new teams, new markets, new media partnerships, new stadiums, and new stars. This is not the MLS of old.
Yes, the crest is a bit bland in and of itself, and yes, the large area of white deemed “second half” leaves a lot to be desired. The void could have easily been filled with a soccer ball, which, to me, is probably the biggest omission from the new logo. But overall, it’s fine as long as the league doesn’t screw it up. MLS CMO Howard Handler appeared to suggest (skip to 15:12 in the video below) during the unveiling that the space could be utilized for advertising space, which would inevitably (and understandably) elicit scorn from fans, myself included.
Regardless of the empty space and its eventual use, what makes the logo unique and wholly MLS is the variance of club colors and the club personality that the league has imbued into the logo with the distinct color schemes. By tweaking the logo’s color scheme to adhere to each club’s colors, MLS is loosening its autocratic hold on its clubs. The secession of power might seem miniscule, but it is a the first step toward MLS becoming the league that many fans want: a league where clubs have the freedom to construct their squads as they see fit without the interference of a front office. Looking back, this new logo and MLS Next campaign may be the first step in a league that ditches single entity and becomes a global mainstay.