Remember when MLS teams used to have cool names?
Names that popped off at the tongue?
The San Jose Clash.
The Tampa Bay Mutiny.
In a mad panic, when the league was about to swallow itself, the leaders that be thought, “hey, if we sound more European, maybe we’ll attract the growing demographic of Americans who watch European football on a regular basis.”
Deep breaths. Deep breaths. I want to belch after typing that.
Changing the team names to have a more “Euro” sound is akin to popping zits without calming the hormones. It was a topical fix that did nothing to improve the league’s quality of play.
And, in doing so, MLS kicked aside one of the great American sporting traditions – weird ass team names.
See the – New Orleans Pelicans.
See the – Buffalo Bills.
See the – L.A. Dodgers.
They’re weird. They’re quirky. They’re us.
We all need to adapt with changing times to progress and survive. And MLS, sagging like a moldy floorboard, needed to RE-everything to survive.
But pasting F.C. or S.C. onto the end of a city name won’t bring a team genuine devotion. It won’t morph a franchise into a club.
The Eurosnobness we should’ve adopted, AHEM AHEM, – promotion and relegation, is one of the few paths for courting genuine love. A path that allows supporters to live through hells of the lower divisions and the heavens of lifting trophies.
There isn’t a marketing campaign or re-brand strategy that could ever reproduce that.
But that’s another entry for another time. Meanwhile, MLS, bring back the O.G. names.
P.S. For a deeper look on MLS’s Euro naming efforts read Tim Froh’s piece: Not feeling the (Dallas) Burn: why MLS teams tried to sound more European
Cynicism is the easy path. An easy path to walk when three divine sons of Europe arrive to sunset their careers in North America. “Over the hill.” we think. “Proof MLS is a retirement league.” we mutter. “These guys are just cashing in.” we write. It’s the same “I’ve come here to win trophies” babble. Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Andrea Pirlo. A general, an inspiration and a sorcerer. Each unique in skill set, and each arrive with a different ending to their European journeys. Steven missing out on his birthday cup. Frankie doing a strange and effective Manchester City midfielder impersonation. And Andrea chasing around the Barcelona clockwork.
Yes they’re old. And all three could channel their inner Lothar Matthäus. But what if instead we hope. What if we cast aside cynicism and imagine Frankie still bursting into the box unmarked. Or Stevie charging after the MLS and US Open Cups like a wild footballing moose. And Andrea walking around the pitch, playing delicate reverse passes for David Villa to kiss off the inside of the post. Let’s imagine this, let’s believe.
Twilight has come for these legends, but hopefully their final chapters will make for a brilliant read.