The playoff picture is almost complete in Major League Soccer with just two places remaining, one in each of the Eastern and Western Conferences.
The big hitters – LA Galaxy, New York Red Bulls, Seattle Sounders, Sporting Kansas City, and Real Salt Lake – are all in, along with FC Dallas and two of this season’s real success stories – DC United and the New England Revolution.
One of the Portland Timbers and the Vancouver Whitecaps will fill the final spot in the West, while Columbus Crew need just a single point from their final two regular season game to guarantee their postseason place.
A run of four wins in their last games, coupled with slip ups from some of the other teams, has them on the cusp of the playoffs but they have been making the headlines for an upcoming makeover.
From 2015, the club will be known as Columbus Crew Soccer Club and a new logo modelled on those of German Bundesliga teams is to the forefront of the image overhaul.
Although only a subtle change name wise, the significance of now being called ‘Soccer Club’ has been met with a mixed response around the league, though people have more receptive to the decision do away with the much maligned hard hat workers on the current logo.
The yellow and black colours have thankfully been retained, while 1996, the year that the Crew were founded, is very prominent.
Speaking about the ‘Soccer Club’ part of their name, the Crew’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer Mike Malo said that it was a decision based on the name of the game stateside.
“We’re a soccer league. In the United States, that’s what we are,” he told reporters last week.
“We need to own that. We were following the league, the direction and the research the league had done.
“We are the first soccer club in this league. We are unapologetic for that. We’re not a European club. We’re a United States soccer club. We wanted to make sure people understood that. It really wasn’t much of a choice for us.”
While Malo is technically correct about the Crew’s status as MLS’ first formally titled soccer club, they will be in good company next season when Orlando City SC make their top flight bow.
Other subtle changes announced include a new nickname, now “Crew SC” as opposed to “The Crew”, and a different acronym, CCSC instead of CLB, that will be utilised for Twitter hashtag purposes amongst other things.
The timing of the image update is perfect as it will coincide with the league wide updates that are also coming in 2015 as part of MLS NEXT.
Next season will also see striker Kei Kamara join the club’s playing roster after he agreed a deal, pending international clearance.
The 30-year-old previously played with Sporting Kansas City before trying his luck with Middlesbrough in the English Championship.
However, that move never really worked out and the club chose to terminate his contract, while work permit issues that came about due to a drop in the FIFA rankings for his nation Sierra Leone scuppered any chances of joining another club.
“They were all some of the factors but I knew there was a place that I called home, there’s a place I can always prove myself,” he says.
“(MLS) is one of the best leagues I’ve played in. I’ve played in the Championship and the Premier League and the MLS really isn’t that far away.”
The prospect of Kamara linking up with the likes of Federico Higuain, brother of Argentine international forward Gonzalo, and Jairo Arrieta gives great hope for the future.
The Crew will also add 17-year-old midfielder Ben Swanson to the squad on a Homegrown Player contract after the youngster impressed in a spell training with the first team.
Before all of that, a good run in this year’s playoffs would cap a solid campaign, although Crew fans are no doubt dreaming of causing a few upsets on the way to a first MLS Cup win since 2008.
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