MLS: 25th Season Official Game Ball Unveiled

MIAMI, Fla. (November 11, 2019) —

Next season is still almost four months away, but we now know what next year’s official Major League Soccer game ball will look like.

Shortly after the Seattle Sounders FC lifted the MLS Cup Sunday, Major League Soccer and adidas revealed the official match ball for the league’s 25th season.

Say buenos días to the 2020 MLS NATIVO XXV.

The 2020 MLS NATIVO XXV ball celebrates the league’s 25th season. By incorporating blue and green accents, it pulls inspiration from MLS’ original logo and its first-ever match ball in 1996.

The ball, which will go on sale online and in stores on January 2, 2020, is the first of “a series of initiatives” planned to celebrate MLS’ 25th anniversary, according to the league office.

Adidas says the ball has its most sustainable design to date. It is made of 100% water-based materials and print colours.

In addition, the “Hi-White” material used is supposed to allow players to see the ball better on the pitch. The ball is constructed of the same high-performance structure and panels as recent World Cup models.

The new MLS NATIVO XXV is one of the many ways MLS’ will celebrate its milestone year. In the coming months, MLS will unveil a series of initiatives to celebrate 25 years and to kick off a new decade of soccer in North America.

It is also expected that next year’s kits for the clubs will also pay tribute the the 25th-year anniversary of the league’s founding. Now if only MLS would bring back 3rd and alternate kits . . .

Chicago Red Stars' Elevated Shirt A Massive Hit

CHICAGO (April 27, 2019) —

At the beginning of the NWSL season, a professional soccer team in Chicago unveiled a new home kit. It took less than 24 hours for the Chicago Red Stars to sell out of every single size of this 2019 home shirt, known as the “Elevated kit” It has been an instant success. The club’s video launching the jersey already has over 100,000 views on Twitter within the first two weeks.

“It has a coolness factor too, of course.”

Sarah Gorden, Red Stars Defender

The finished product was the result of eight months of work from the team’s designer, support from the entire front office, over 50 versions of the design, and as Chicago Red Stars owner Arnim Whisler puts it, “the internal passion to get it right.”

This article discusses the design, process, meaning and reactions to the Red Stars’ Elevated kit.

The Goal

The goal was to design a kit that was visually appealing to both soccer fans and non-fans alike. The team was thinking of the design as being more of a “lifestyle brand.” They wanted someone who was not familiar with the Red Stars to see the shirt and learn more about the team.

“The battle we have as a town with eight pro sports teams is awareness and differentiation,” Whisler said. “We’re constantly looking for angles to get noticed.”

The team wanted something that would get noticed. A shirt so cool it could be sold in Michigan Avenue tourist shops and at O’Hare International Airport. Something maybe even Chance The Rapper would wear while performing.

The Design

The designer of the shirt is Anthony Guagliardo, a Chicago native. He had the good fortune of getting a job with the Red Stars about a year ago right out of college. He says he went through at least fifty different iterations and ideas over a period of several months. After narrowing it down to one or two, neither was selected by the team.

It was now October of 2018 and he was running up against a production deadline to be ready for the 2019 season. Guagliardo started again from scratch, and took inspiration from the city’s public transportation system. 

“I really wanted to do something with the L,” he said, referring to Chicago’s inner-city elevated train system, also commonly called the “El” in reference to the elevated tracks on which many of the lines run. “I thought, why not go a little crazy here and do something completely new? And that’s how I landed on this Elevated design.”

His design is a maze-like design of the city of Chicago itself. The L runs through the entire pattern on the front of the shirt with the city’s Inner Loop clearly visible. Whisler compared the design to every map of Chicago he’s ever seen, with Lake Michigan clearly featured on the right.

Guagliardo ruled out a more minimalist version of the L first. 

“That felt too incomplete to me,” he said. “It would look too weird, even if people would understand what it was.” 

The easy way was out. The pattern was in. The inspiration came from how the streets and transportation system of Chicago interlock and interweave.. Guagliardo spent an entire week (“nine to five,” he said) building the pattern. Then he spent the next week tweaking it. 

“He spent I don’t know how many days hand-connecting all those little streets,” Whisler said. “He was just dazed. He had been staring at that pattern, hand-connecting to make sure there are no weird dead ends, and his head had just been living that for days.”

With the pattern done, the distinctive stars from the flag of Chicago placed on the front of the kit, and the Nike and team logos put in their standard spots, one thing remained—the back of the jersey. Guagliardo didn’t want the back to feel like it was from a different kit. 

“We thought of the phrase, ‘put the city on our back.’” He said. “That sort of hit me. We should put the skyline there.” 

He had thought the skyline had been done by too many people, but the Red Stars had their own spin on it now thanks to the pattern. 

“That was the differentiator,” Guagliardo said.

Photo: Chicago Red Stars

The Process

The production phase presented its own challenge. Nike is the kit supplier to the NWSL. Similar to what adidas does with Major League Soccer, Nike provides each NWSL team with stock kits, onto which a small level of customisation is available. In this case, the elevated kit was a lot more complex, given that it wraps around the shirt and the pattern must interlock.

By mid-November 2018, Guagliardo and the Red Stars had pushed the new design concept over to Nike for approval. The team’s director of communication and marketing, Justyne Freud, was in charge of the proofing process. It took six or seven rounds with Nike, just to make sure everything—especially the pattern—was right.

The final element was the actual launch. With the mindset being that this is far more than a women’s soccer team kit, a bigger idea was needed. The kit’s launch video adopted the bigger way of thinking. It was produced along with creative agency The Times Chicago and features defender Sarah Gorden along with defender Casey Short and midfielder Julie Ertz.

“Justyne (Freud) said that she wanted to make a statement,” Gorden said. “And that’s the kind of person and group that we are. We want to make a statement. We’re not here to be average. We want to be in your face. We want to be loud. And the video was a great representation of that.”

Chicago’s new shirt is proving that custom kits can result in significant sales numbers.

The Meaning

Whisler said the kit puts the Red Stars on the stage. “We’re just doing everything we can to insinuate ourselves in the heads of Chicagoans.”

The players also like the new vibe.

“To me, a lot of the equality stuff is played out,” Defender Sarah Gorden said. “It’s a business. People are saying equality because they want to make money; they don’t actually believe in it! It is that F you attitude. I’m here to play soccer, and I’m here to kick ass on the field. If you want to come and watch badass women come together, then come to it! And if you have a problem with it, then stay at home.”

Sarah Gorden, Chicago Red Stars

The Reaction

Reaction to the Red Stars’ new kit has been phenomenal.

The pattern came out so well that the team has incorporated into their design elements, too. For example, it appears on the season ticket holder package sent out prior to this season, and it is used on in the team’s social graphics as well.

Whisler believes this could not have happened if the Red Stars had outsourced the design to an outside agency. “At the end of the day, you can’t outsource passion. I think what you see in this jersey, there’s a lot of love. There’s a love by people who have put an awful lot of work into this team and this brand.”

Gorden said she was “blown away” by the design. Even just imagining the finished product had her excited: “I was like, wow, these jerseys would be sick.” She also added that having the city embedded in the kit serves as a constant a reminder that “this game is bigger than just you,” she said. “You’re playing for a city, you’re representing a bigger group of people. I think it’s a great reminder of that, and it’s the culture of Chicago right on our jersey.

Source Credit

United Soccer League Overview

The brands of the United Soccer Leagues, LLC ™United Soccer Leagues, LLC

Brand Identity

Corporate Structure and Ownership

The legal entity that operates the United Soccer League is known as United Soccer, Leagues, LLC. The league offices are at 1715 North Westshore Boulevard, Suite 825, Tampa, Florida 33607.

The United Soccer League is owned by NuRock Soccer Holdings, LLC, a Georgia Limited Liability Company with its principal business address in Atlanta, Georgia. NuRock controls 99% of the membership interests, while the other 1 % is held by Robert Hoskins.

Background

NuRock Soccer Holdings LLC purchased the United Soccer Leagues from Nike in August 2009. NuRock had been a franchisee of the United Soccer League with a Premier Development League team in Atlanta.

NuRock is led by real estate developer Robert Hoskins and former NASL player Alec Papadakis, and NuRock Soccer Holdings, LLC is a part of a larger organisation known as The NuRock Companies — of which Hoskins is the founder.

Rebrand

In 2018, the USL announced a rebranding, which took effect immediately at the close of the 2018 season. The rebranded USL is modelled after a recognised and respected international structure – one central brand, three leagues. Unlike Major League Soccer (“MLS”), which operates under the single entity, limited liability legal structure, the USL operates a pure franchise model which is highly centralised and top-down in its execution.

The vision of USL is to a future where stability reigns in the world of lower division soccer in the United States. Stability is not one word that most would use to describe the lower divisions over the years. It seeks to strengthen its contribution to U.S. Soccer’s efforts toward becoming a world powerhouse and its pursuit of winning a World Cup.

The Three Leagues

USL CHAMPIONSHIP ( 2nd tier of US Soccer)

Logo of USL Championship ™ United Soccer League

In 2017, the USL was given provisional accreditation as a DII league. In 2018, the USL was sanctioned as the sole DII league in the United States. The fee in 2018 to buy a franchise is believed to be $7 million. That fee can be expected to rise, given the historical rise in franchise fees in both USL and MLS over the past several years. According to USL documentation, the current expected initial investment by a new team is at least $10.6 million (including the aforementioned $7 million expansion fee)

By Comparison: In 1998, the Miami Fusion are believed to have paid $20 million to join MLS. In 2018, FC Cincinnati is believed to have forked out $150 million. That means in 20 years, MLS’ valuation of clubs has risen 7.5-fold. In half that time, the USL’s 47-fold increase has far outpaced even the top professional league in U.S. Soccer.

Currently, the USL has 33 teams, divided into two sides (called conferences) ‘East’ and ‘West’. Teams play 34-games from in a fixture that runs from March through October. Like MLS, the USL also ends the season with playoffs. The USL Championship is a fully professional league and all players are paid.

Affiliation with MLS: Some of the teams are affiliated with MLS clubs, as the current rules permit MLS clubs to field reserve teams in USL or affiliate with USL clubs. In fact, most MLS clubs have either an affiliation or field reserve teams. This agreement is subject to revision in the future.

Note: Many of the early USL clubs signed a five-year franchise agreement with the league. That five-year term, depending on the club, may expire at the end of 2018 or 2019. The USL has recognized this potential difficulty and in 2016, took measures to incentivize owners to remain in the league. An increase in the expansion fee was one, while another is a smaller $10,000 fee required to renew membership for another term. The present term is for 10 years.

USL LEAGUE ONE (3rd tier of US Soccer)

During the 2017 and 2018 seasons, US Soccer had no third division. That gap is now filled with the arrival of USL One. Officially launched on 14 December 2018. USL applied for Third Division status for its League One in August 2018; the USSF granted a provisional third division status on December 14, 2018.

Employing the successful methodology utilized by the USL to establish the largest professional soccer league in North America, the USL League One expansion efforts center on markets that meet the following criteria:

  • Strong local ownership
  • Primary owner with a net worth in excess of $10 million and 35% or greater share of the potential franchise
  • Soccer-specific stadia
  • Seating Capacity: 3,500
  • Pitch Size: 110 yards x 70 yards
  • Viable market size and support

The expansion fee for USL D3 teams is believed to be $500,000, and teams are expected to spend between $2.4 million and $5.1 million during their first season of play. USL One is also regarded as a professional league.

For the 2019 season, there will be ten teams competing (9 from the US plus Toronto FC II) in a 28 fixture season. Expansion clubs for 2020 include the Rochester Rhinos and Harrisburg, PA side Penn FC. The latter club is in the process of finding a suitable home stadium and opted to sit out the 2019 season.

2019 USL League One Footprint ™ United Soccer League

USL LEAGUE TWO (4th tier -unofficial)

(f/k/a Premier Development League “PDL”)

USL League Two continues the mission of the PDL, the leader in pre-professional soccer in the U.S. and Canada. The League holds a vital role as it continues to provide the elite platform for those pursuing professional careers domestically and internationally.

League Two aims to be more than the leading national U23 league: League Two bills itself as “the defined and proven pathway for players to progress to the professional ranks of soccer while becoming a staple within the community in which the team operates.”

League Two clubs have partnerships with MLS and USL Championship Clubs. At present, there are 74 clubs in League Two.

USL League Two is divided into 4 conferences: Eastern, Southern, Central and Western.

The USL League Two regular season takes place during the summer from early May to mid-July. Each team plays a 14 matches against their respective divisional opponents, seven games at home and seven away. Following the conclusion of the regular season, a postseason tournament takes place. These playoffs take place in late July, with each conference champion advancing to the national semifinals and the winners of those matches advancing to the League Two Championship match in early August.

A note about division sanctioning: The United States Soccer Federation (USSF) promulgated criteria and sanctions the first three divisions of soccer in the US. Below the three official divisions as designated by USSF, there are other active leagues; some of these are intrastate competitions or independent leagues. Most, though not all, of these are sanctioned by the United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA).

2019 USL League 2 Footprint ™ United Soccer League

Sources:

1. USL website

2. https://www.soctakes.com/2018/07/30/usl-franchise-fees-shepard-tone-or-progress/

3. Florida Secretary of State, Division of Corporations. http://search.sunbiz.org; Georgia Secretary of State, Corporations Division.

4. https://league-one.com/2018/12/14/usl-league-one-granted-provisional-ussf-sanctioning/

5. independent research