An Open Letter To Football Clubs

Dear Football Club Owners, Managers, and CEO’s:

I love what you’re trying to do. I love your mission statement about growing the game at a grassroots level, about developing local player talent, about providing a professionalized outlet for the game in your community, and I maybe even think its a little cute that you want to bring MLS to your town. And because I want you to succeed, here’s some free advice.

DESIGN MATTERS. And so does branding. A lot. It has been said that in this post-modern milieu design has become the arbiter of value and meaning. This may be overstating things a bit, but as FORBES has pointed out, we live in an ‘Era of Design’.  And in this era, as Adam Swann notes, “expecting great design is no longer the preserve of a picky design-obsessed urban elite—that aesthetically sensitive clique who‘d never dare leave the house without their Philippe Starck eyewear and turtleneck sweaters and buy only the right kind of Scandinavian furniture. Instead, there’s a new, mass expectation of good design”.

For clubs, this extends to such things as crests, logos, and websites. In essence, anything that represents the club or its ‘brand’ falls into this category. It’s worth spending money to work with a professional designer. Really. There are a lot of freelancers who do great work that would put together a crest for a few hundred dollars. And for a little more, you could have a color scheme and font customized for all of your publications. Its worth it. People notice good design, and laugh at bad design.

Unfortunately, what was good design in the 90’s may not be good design today. Your clubs should be constantly looking to stay relevant. To put it plainly, here are a few design principles to help you out:

  1. Cartoons are generally not good design unless you work for Nickelodeon or Disney. If you want to be seen as a pro club, look like a pro club.
  2. Star Wars was the peak of good design once upon a time. Taking branding cues from Star Wars is no longer good design.
  3. Branding your club with some arbitrary moniker is not good branding and will probably hinder your efforts towards good design. At one time nicknames like ‘Thunder’, ‘Force,’ and ‘Stars’ was probably considered GREAT branding technique. But times have changed. Monikers can be used well, but should generally identify the club with a larger more significant narrative. So monikers that reference a geographical situation, a significant local theme, or something similar can work.
  4. Simplicity is best. This is true of your logo/crest as well as your club name, jerseys, and just about everything.
  5. With very few exceptions: don’t use stars in your logo unless you’ve won a championship. Don’t put a soccer ball in your logo; if it’s not obvious you’re a soccer club then you’ve already failed.
  6. Do have a website, and really try to host it at a .com address. And no, does not count. This site should have pertinent club information, a place to by tickets and merchandise, and should be updated with club news and scores regularly.
  7. Get a Facebook page and twitter. You want people to follow you and engage you, and social media is good way to accomplish this. Also, don’t forget to update once in a while. These tools do no good if they aren’t actually used.

This list is by no means exhaustive. It’s really just something to get you started. And if you want some examples of how to do it right, check out Chattanooga FC, Detroit City FCFC Tucson or Nashville FC.

Or check out Greater Binghamton Futbol Club Thunder FC, replete with stars, black and white soccer balls, and laser rays:

Greater Binghamton Futbol Club Thunder

I’ll still support you GBFC Thunder, but you sure have made it difficult to be proud to represent my club.


Fracturing the US Soccer Pyramid

Philly Soccer News published a brief story yesterday about a new professional soccer league reportedly kicking off in 2014 under the name American Professional Soccer (APS). So far teams are planned in Boston, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Maryland, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and an unknown location in the Midwest. According to the Philly Soccer News report the league plans on operating regionally at first before expanding its national footprint.

US Soccer PyramidAt this point, there are more questions than answers about this new league. It seems that any professional league seeking credibility would seek sanctioning from the Unites States Football Federation (USSF), and assuming APS does seek sanctioning, will they look to supplant the NPSL and PDL as a ‘professional’ fourth division? Or will they attempt to go head to head with USL Pro or NASL for second or third division status? Any way you slice this, the last thing we need is another regional ‘pro’ league with national ambitions. As it stands USL Pro and NASL don’t even have true nationwide footprints – and they are far more established than any new upstart pro league can hope to be.

USSF needs to step in and create true league standards for sanctioned leagues all the way down the pyramid. And this doesn’t just hold true for the APS. It stands for the American National Soccer League (which appears to be an offshoot founded by clubs from the defunct National Stars Soccer League) and members of the more recently defunct Southern Premier Soccer League (some of the SPSL clubs have since joined the NPSL). I’m sure these club and league owners have a great dream and a lot of heart for the beautiful game, but further fracturing the professional landscape in this country only sets back its development. As it stands there are good options at all levels of the pyramid for aspiring club owners. There are a host of USASA sanctioned leagues operating at local levels where clubs can be run on extremely small budgets. The NPSL represents another affordable option with a truly national footprint. United Soccer Leagues offers several quality leagues on both the men’s and women’s side of the game from the youth level, up to fourth division PDL, through third division USL Pro. For owners with even more ambition and financial clout there is second division NASL.

I will readily admit each of these leagues has their own set of issues. But they are all reasonably established and offer a wide variety of options to cater to club owners particular desires. In fact, there are professional clubs operating in both the NPSL and PDL. By starting yet another league all we are doing is diluting the upper ends of the pyramid and perpetuating the instability that already plagues our second, third, and fourth divisions.


US Open Cup With Arrows, fresh after Round 2 edition.

Big in the blogosphere now is the news that Seattle has paid Atlanta off to get a home game in the Open Cup third round. “Apologists” in the group are saying that at least the money is going to a club in need (cough) instead of the USSF coffers. I don’t care. The draw was made, it was (presumably) random, and you accept it. This is the definition of buying cups; this is the definition of modern football.

I would also like to note that Portland did the same exact thing with Wilmington. The venue for the possible third round match there changed in the afternoon. However, Wilmington lost to Wynalda Cal FC, so there was no need in the end. Cal won 4-0 too, which makes the match against Portland really, REALLY interesting.

EDIT: Updated to include the venue change between RSL and Minnesota. After apparently realizing via Seattle that paying off the other guy for the home game was something you could do, they needed to do it too.