2014 is slowly becoming the year of the rebrand for MLS. San Jose debuted a new crest and uniform at the beginning of the season while MLS unveiled their new logo last week. The MLS “Next” rebrand is the first time the league has changed its traditional logo in league history. The latest change will be the Columbus Crew rebrand on October 8th. The club, led by Anthony Precourt, has made some impressive strides in just one year after changing hands.
One of the original MLS clubs and historic teams in MLS was sold by the Hunt Family to Precourt for a reported $64 million. The Crew was owned by Lamar Hunt, the legendary founder of MLS and champion of soccer in North America. After Hunt passed away, his sons took control of both FC Dallas and the Crew, opting to sell the Ohio based franchise in July 2013. The increasing value of MLS franchises is telling of the growth of MLS. What is most encouraging about the sale of the Crew is not necessarily in the price tag. The investment that Precourt has made in the club is reinvigorating to such a storied franchise. In only one year, Precourt has worked effortlessly to deliver on some of his goals upon purchasing the team.
Precourt’s ambition is undeniable. Within months of purchasing the team, he openly declared his respect for the Hunt family, but ensured that things would be different in Columbus. Precourt’s primary goals are to improve support for the club, upgrade the stadium, bring success on the field, and retool the clubs logo. With the 2014 season unfinished, time will tell whether the club will be successful. With Precourt at the helm, the club has not shied away from opening up their checkbook to bring in talent, like US Men’s National Team defender Michael Parkhurst. Yet, the Crew are not emptying their coffers on big signings like Los Angeles, New York, and Toronto are expected to do. They made a point to shore up their borders and sign local products. The team has seven homegrown products on the books for 2014, the second most in the league. Having promising local talent such as Wil Trapp will surely bring more local support to the club, one of Precourt’s goals. Ohio has been somewhat of a hotbed for soccer the past few years, yet the club has not capitalized on the talent in the state – something the Crew will certainly look to change moving forward.
The logo rebrand beginning in 2015 is long overdue. The Crew are one of the only clubs that has kept their original logo since 1996. Almost every other club in the league has rebranded or changed their logo in a major way. While some fans may argue the logo is timeless and historic, other clubs have found success in changing their logo. When an owner changes the look of the club in the first 18 months of their tenure, a few red flags might be raised among the loyal supporters. Some many feel alienated by an owner who does not understand the team or the devoted followers. Precourt is not one of those owners. A new Crew logo could not come at a better time. Precourt recognizes that with Orlando City SC and New York City FC entering the league in 2015, tenured MLS sides will be competing with new and exciting clubs moving forward. Newcomers to the league might be drawn to these new clubs, even if they live outside of Orlando and New York. Columbus will be able to launch a new look of their own, offering both history for current fans and energy and excitement for prospective fans.
With multi-million dollar updates to Crew Stadium, surely the club will look to build even further. Within one year, Precourt has managed to bring in the right people to share his vision. Moving forward, the Crew under Precourt will most likely look to create a team in USL PRO. The club currently has an affiliation with the Dayton Dutch Lions as well as a reserve league team. Many clubs are taking a bigger step in creating their very own second team to help improve quality on the field and establish roots in the community. Whichever route the Crew choose in this instance, they will work tirelessly with an involved owner such as Precourt. They will be an organization to watch in the future, as the Precourt Era has just begun.