The soccer news starts with the official announcement that Charlotte is joining Major League Soccer. The latest MLS expansion team will start play in 2021 at Bank of America Stadium, sharing the home of the National Football League's Carolina Panthers.
"We are thrilled to welcome Charlotte as Major League Soccer’s 30th club,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said. "During the last two decades, Charlotte has experienced enormous energy and growth, which matches soccer’s explosive rise in popularity in the United States. We are pleased to add David Tepper to our ownership group and look forward to working with him and his entire organization to launch Major League Soccer in the Carolinas in 2021."
Given how much of this was already well known prior to Tuesday's press conference, there's not a lot of news. That includes what they're going to call this team, though we do have a list of word marks the club's investor/operator is looking to protect.
A quick run through of that list features FC, Town, Athletic, and Monarchs alongside the somewhat more original Crown, Fortune, Gliders, and All Carolina. All of the have FC attached at the the end of the name. Considering what we've seen from other teams entering the league, none of that is surprising.
MLS naming conventions tend to like United, City, and FC so credit the Charlotte investor/operators with paying attention and staying away from two of those. Europe was also not as much of an influence, with a league bingo card of teams borrowing names of well-established foreign clubs. MLS has done monumental work to move past its own original story through re-branding and willful forgetfulness, but it's not all that far removed to marketing concepts as team names. There's an argument that embracing an identity no matter how odd it is will always beat faux-legitimacy through the choice of team name.
Any MLS fan is already familiar with the team name, logo, and colors as branding exercise. It doesn't take multiple explanations of why this shade of blue is hyper-local, specifically tailored to this football club that has yet to play a game, and utterly different than that other team using a color two shades off. It's silly, but it's another check the box moment for any team as they move forward. The more teams that come in and opt for something different, the less obvious it is that multiple teams have the same name.
If Charlotte can avoid copying what's already in the league along with any homage to foreign glory, they might be better off for it. That's the thing with an expansion team. The name is important, but in this league it all comes down to being competitive as soon as possible. For all the thinking some branding agency will do coming up with a story for why whatever Charlotte settles on is the perfect choice, players matter more and they matter immediately.
We're well into the straight into the fire version of MLS that doesn't allow for lengthy buildups. Expansion teams that decide they have that luxury need a new stadium coming online for a soft reboot or something to turn the corner on the early years. Without that, it's just a struggling soccer team.
AP's James Ellingsworth profiles USMNT and Fortuna Dusseldorf goalkeeper Zack Steffen. The Trinidad & Tobago Guardian's Walter Alibey on the next coach of the country's national team.
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