MLS NEXT – An exciting new phase for US Soccer

Earlier this week the Seattle Sounders tied the Chicago Fire’s record of US Open Cup wins by a Major League Soccer team as they overcame the Philadelphia Union 3-1 after extra time.

Their fifth win was thanks in large part to Clint Demspsey and Obafemi Martins, two Designated Players who between them will earn over $8 million in guaranteed compensation for 2014 in a league that still pays some its first teamers less than $50,000 a year.

The Sounders, aided by MLS, have spent big and it’s starting to pay off; they currently sit top of the Western Conference and the combined Supporters’ Shield ladder, and are the only team to date to have sealed a playoff spot.

Throw an average attendance of 42,238 into the mix and you have a real superpower player in the league.

Seattle, along with fellow Cascadia-based expansion sides the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps, symbolise “new MLS” – passionate, vocal and in it for the long haul – and have contributed massively to the rising interest in the league as a whole.

With two more teams, New York City FC and Orlando City FC, joining in 2015, the league decided that now was the perfect time for an overhaul of its branding and on Thursday released the “MLS NEXT” concept.

The familiar MLS logo, which has been in place in various forms since the mid-1990s is gone and the ball and cleat has been retired. In its place is something that looks like it has been copied directly from an unlicensed club team in Pro Evolution Soccer.

Once you get past how bland the new logo looks at first glance, the reasoning behind the change is quite sound and, according to MLS, “the new brand’s design is intended to say ‘soccer” without the literal ball and cleat”.

MLS NEXT avatars

David Bruce, the league’s Senior Director of Brand and Integrated Marketing, spoke very well on the latest ExtraTime Radio podcast and said that is pleased with how fans have reacted to the launch.

“The modern brand, it shouldn’t be owned by a few people, it should be owned by many,” said Bruce.

“So if people feel like it’s there’s, ultimately that’s a good thing, and that’s really how we wanted to structure the thing from day one.”

Opinions of the logo are very much split however, with fans taking to various social media platforms to share their thoughts, and some of the Photoshop generated alternatives have been highly amusing.

This is very much a case of there being no such thing as bad publicity, and no doubt Commissioner Don Garber and the other high ups in MLS kicked back and smoked a cigar as their announcement become a huge talking point throughout the day.

Every club will get its own version of the new logo in their colours, and this is something fans have already latched on to for their social media avatars.

The logo will make its first appearance on shirts when NYCFC and Orlando City release their playing kits in November.

The corporates and sponsors have also played a huge role in the development of MLS NEXT with Bruce stating that both Adidas and EA Sports were involved in the concept since its inception a year ago.

The likes of Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins, along with Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill, Marco Di Vaio and Michael Bradley amongst others, have raised the standard of MLS in recent years, and reinforcements are on the way in the form of Kaka, David Villa and Frank Lampard.

The league is setting itself up for a bright future after building on solid foundations, and MLS NEXT is going to be key to that.

MLS NEXT explained

This article first appeared on the excellent bsports, who provide great statistical analysis. You can also find them on Twitter.

Author Details

Neil Sherwin
Neil Sherwin

Co-editor of BackPageFootball.com. Writes mostly on Premier League and A-League with contributions to other sites including TheFootballSack, InBedWithMaradona and Bloomberg's BSports. Has featured on The Guardian's Football Weekly.

One thought on “MLS NEXT – An exciting new phase for US Soccer

  1. They appear to be going about things the right way. The greed of the big European clubs who toured in the US in the summer will ensure that the MLS will have a tough job not only trying to entice sports fans but to entice football (soccer) fans in particular. The premier league and la liga teams want your money!!!

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