A history of MLS through its logos
College Contributor Network
On Sept. 18, Major League Soccer released its latest image refinement –- a completely redesigned league logo for the 2015 season. The change comes at an exciting time for MLS. The 2015 campaign will mark the league's 20th season and will see expansion sides Orlando City SC and New York City FC begin MLS play.
Much has changed in MLS since its first matches kicked off in 1996: coaches and players have come and gone, franchises have folded and relocated, and stadiums have been built and filled with fans. League officials have tweaked the MLS logo five times since the original was created in 1994.
Here's what was going on around Major League Soccer each time the league office made a change:
The year was 1988, and the USSF was trying to promote the United States as a viable site for the 1994 World Cup. As a condition for holding the competition on American soil, the federation promised FIFA it would create a professional soccer league in the United States. The rest is history.
This original logo was designed in 1994 and included the Red, White, and Blue color scheme along with a cartoon-ish cleat kicking a soccer ball.
"THE STARTER ON MATCHDAY" (1996)
Number of teams: 10
Average Attendance: 17,406
When 10 teams began league play in 1996, MLS had already modified its logo from the Red, White, and Blue original to a blue and green alternate with an almost identical graphic.
All things considered, the inaugural Major League Soccer season went well –- a number of iconic players played exciting soccer and plenty of fans turned out to watch. Most notably, forward Roy Lassiter set a single-season goal scoring mark (27 goals) that still stands today, and Eddie Pope brought the first MLS Cup back to D.C. after netting an overtime winner to give his United squad a 3-2 win over the L.A. Galaxy.
"THE SIGN OF DECLINE" (2000)
Number of teams: 12
Average Attendance: 13,756
In 2000, league officials tweaked the MLS logo a bit by adding more detail to the image and including text at the bottom.
At this point in MLS history, all the momentum and excitement that had come along with the start of play in 1996 had worn off. Average attendance dipped to the lowest figure in league history, and it was clear the league was in decline.
On the field Kansas City dominated play. The then-Wizards won both the Supporters Shield and the MLS Cup behind a strong back line that featured future Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes and shot stopper Tony Meola.
"THE CREST OF BECKS" (2008)
Number of teams: 14
Average Attendance: 16,460
In 2008 the league office made the minutest of changes to the logo, simply getting rid of the text under the graphic.
Between the lines much bigger changes were taking place. MLS had acquired its first designated player and true superstar, a player who could single-handedly attract fans from across the country and across the world –- former Real Madrid superstar David Beckham.
While Beckham's first full season in MLS was a boon for the league, most fans forget that it was a wash for the Englishman's Galaxy side. L.A. finished tied for last in the league with a meager season total of 33 points. Back across the country, the Columbus Crew captured its first MLS Cup behind the fancy feet of Argentine Guillermo Barros Schelotto.
"THE EMBLEM OF EXPANSION" (2012)
Number of teams: 19
Average Attendance: 18, 807
After more than a decade the league office decided to ditch the blue and green color scheme and go with a simple black and white look.
At the turn of 2012, recent expansion teams in Canada and the Pacific Northwest were the biggest catalysts in pushing the league's image forward. The Montreal Impact took part in its inaugural MLS season, showing off an impressive offensive flair thanks in part to veteran Italian striker Marco Di Vaio.
Out west the Whitecaps, Timbers, and Sounders helped push MLS fandom to new heights, as they competed for the Cascadia Cup. It was a struggling Portland side that ultimately captured the fan created trophy with a 1-0 result in Vancouver -– the Timbers only road win of the season allowing them to claim their 1st trophy since joining MLS in 2011.
The L.A. Galaxy took home the big hardware, as it became the 3rd club in league history to claim back-to-back MLS cups. The title marked the end of an era, as David Beckham decided to depart for Europe after a six-year MLS career.
"THE FUTURE" (2015)
Number of teams: 21
Average Attendance: TBD
According to a league press release, the new MLS crest "embodies and represents the next phase of Major League Soccer's vision to be among the best leagues in the world by 2022".
So that's pretty damn exciting, right?
Don Garber and company are looking to move the league into a new stratosphere, a stratosphere which has apparently been dubbed "MLS NEXT".
Kevin Case is a junior at Syracuse University. He is a loyal D.C. Sports fan, has a growing love for American soccer, and would love to beat you in FIFA. Follow him on Twitter: @KCase_Closed