The path the reborn NASL has taken to get to this point has been a long one, fraught with pitfalls, distractions and near disasters. But on Saturday, the league will kick off as the recognized second division of U.S. soccer, featuring a full slate of games that are supposed to be available online, at least according to Thursday's NASL press conference.
In recent weeks, the league has announced the hiring of David Downs as its first-ever commissioner and introduced several rule changes that are designed to help it fall into line with the rest of the soccer-playing world. The league has made commendable strides to revamp its image that have included finally redesigning their god-awful logo and hiring 343RLP to help update the look of the league. So far, 343RLP has already redesigned the logo for the team formerly known as Miami FC as part of their rebranding to the Fort Launderdale Strikers.
With the way the league presents itself being such a focus recently, I've decided to go through the various teams and rank their logos. I have a background in design, so I feel reasonably qualified to be doing this. I also don't know a whole lot about the specific players, so faking my way through a traditional season preview seems a bit insincere...
1. Montreal Impact
I'm going to go ahead and give the Impact a few extra points just because it's been around a little while. I may think the Strikers' logo is a little sharper, but something has to be said for history. I'm not exactly sure how long it has been around, but I think we can safely say it was one of, if not the, oldest in NASL. The centerpiece is the fleur-de-lis, which seems to be found on anything remotely associated with France, and is a nice touch. They also make good use of a sans serif font, which I'm particularly partial to. They'll probably update it when they move to MLS, but there really is no need.
2. Fort Lauderdale Strikers
On pure aesthetics, I think this is my favorite. It's obviously designed by someone who knows what they are doing. The red and orange/yellow references the Strikers of the original NASL, the columns are apparently related to Fort Lauderdale architecture, the fonts are clean and it's not too busy. I'd say it's already better than most of the logos being worn by MLS teams.
3. Carolina Railhawks
I'm actually kind of impressed that there are three logos that I genuinely like. This is clearly No. 3, but I think it's also solidly above the other five. Let's ignore for a second that a "railhawk" is not a real thing. As far as I know, the term did not exist prior to the team and an Internet search for the word does not turn up pleasing results. Those criticisms aside, I actually like the logo. Nice sharp lines. Not getting too crazy with fonts. No major complaints.
4. NSC Minnesota Stars
I wouldn't say this one is "bad" per se, but it's getting toward the obviously in the market for a redesign territory. If I had to guess, I'd say that whoever was tasked with putting it together does not have a professional design background and erred on the side of safety. I applaud that effort, as there is nothing particularly offensive about this logo, but it's also pretty boring. It should be noted that their new jerseys are actually pretty sharp.
5. Puerto Rico Islanders
A few years ago, I would have said this was a perfectly acceptable design. But now, it just looks dated. I like the Puerto Rica flag, but not much else. It really looks like someone who new how to do some tricks in Illustrator got a little overzealous and tried to incorporate a few too many elements. For instance, does the ball really need to be breaking through a net? Does there really need to be that much shadowing and overlapping? This would be a lot better if it were just simplified.
6. FC Edmonton
I don't think anyone can fault these guys for trying too hard. Unfortunately, this looks very much like something I might throw together if one of my friends needed me to design them a logo for their rec league soccer team and needed it this evening. There's not a lot of thought that went into this. The Canadian maple leaf is a nice touch, but it's just kinda boring and very much like something someone with the most basic design skills could put together.
7. Atlanta Silverbacks
Now we're getting into the downright offensive category. No professional organization should have a logo that looks as bad as either of these last two. I suppose I find the Silverbacks a little less awful just because it looks like some design actually went into it. How much design? It's really hard to say. If you're going to use a real animal as part of your logo, it should really be done well since there are plenty of models out there and this just looks bad. I'm also not a big fan of that font. It's overly stylized and I don't understand the relevance.
8. FC Tampa Bay
I really, really hope this is the next logo on the redesign list. I appreciate that they wanted to keep the colors from the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the NASL, but there needs to be a stronger tie-in than just using a color palette that looks like it was ripped out of 1968. This honestly looks like it was designed in Microsoft Paint. That this logo is only a couple of years old is frankly embarrassing. Everything about it is overly simplistic. There have to be hundreds, if not thousands, of people in the Tampa area who could design a better logo than this for a nominal fee. It's hard to articulate how much a logo like this can undermine your product. I realize this is probably an over-the-top reaction, but this really needs to be redesigned from scratch.
Saturday's schedule of games (all times eastern)
- Carolina RailHawks Vs. Puerto Rico Islanders, 7 p.m.
- FC Tampa Bay Vs. Montreal Impact, 7 p.m.
- Atlanta Silverbacks vs. NSC Minnesota Stars, 7:30 p.m.
- Fort Lauderdale Strikers Vs. FC Edmonton, 7:30 p.m.