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Kansas City’s new soccer brand — the owners got it right

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Four crests, three name changes and two stadium relocations later, Kansas City’s ownership group got it right.

Sporting Kansas City’s President Robb Heineman announced today the re-branding of Major League Soccer’s KC franchise — the final step in the restructuring overhaul of the team that entered the league’s 1996 inaugural season as the Kansas City Wiz.

It’s a massive transition, comparable to that of Red Bull New York — a transition that saw the NY/NJ Metrostars relocate and rebrand into a state-of-the-art stadium, a new name/sponsor and increased popularity.

Now, following its 2006 investment in the Kansas City Wizards, OnGoal LLC introduced what’s potentially the final piece that began as a mere vision five years ago. In a press conference this evening in downtown Kansas City’s Power & Light District, Heineman introduced the team’s new Sporting KC name and crest to supporters.

“We want KC to be known as an innovator in this league and we want to create the sporting way,” he said in a short video posted on the MLS website. “We know that some of the changes we’re making won’t be well accepted, and that’s OK. It’s going to be about (fans) being engaged with our brand however it is they want to be engaged. It’s about connections we make through sports.”

The new design and name come as no surprise with versions of the new crest being leaked online just days before tonight’s announcement. Many commentators have been critical about the re-branding, and for good reason.

It’s difficult to tell what club is represented by the over-bloated, blue-on-blue design. Although “Kansas City” is written across the top of the the new logo, the lettering is difficult, if not impossible, to decipher from a distance. Furthermore, the entangled SC engraved on the right side of the logo is a little confusing. It would undoubtedly make more sense if the “S” were replaced with a “K” to form what the masses in North America have come to know Kansas City teams for — the “KC” symbol shared by the Chiefs and Royals.

What’s more disappointing is the laziness of the left side of the crest. The bars that crowd the design look like space fillers. Surely with years of planning the ownership group could have envisioned something more inspiring.

As far as the name goes, it’s certainly a grade above some of the worst names in the league. So, with such an abundance of critical analysis and complaints, how did the club still manage to get it right? Critics have to remember how far this club has come. Considering just five years ago the club was on the brink of complete relocation, the current announcement is a success no matter how you look at it.

The Kansas City Wizards' rainbow logo.
The Kansas City Wizards’ rainbow logo.

Supporters of the team will remember 15 seasons ago when the Wiz — clad in rainbow kits and polyester shorts — opened its inaugural campaign in a three-quarters empty football stadium. The team was the subject of radio jokes with a local sports commentator saying “flush the Wiz.”

Though the new name and design leave a lot to be desired, opponents must put things into perspective. We’re talking about an ownership group that saved soccer in Kansas City. It’s an organization that’s less than a year away from opening arguably the nicest stadium of its size — in North America. We’re talking about an ownership group that continues to make the team relevant in the KC metropolitan area.

I was there when Miklos Molnar lifted the cup for the Wizards in 2000, and I was there during first kick in 1996. I was there during the years of potential relocation, and I was there when the Hunt family put the team up for sale.

Let’s be honest, even with the long list of complaints surrounding Kansas City’s new crest, the brand the team is moving forward with is far more superior, marketable and modern compared to its outdated predecessor. Couple that with new kits and a gorgeous new stadium and it’s more than likely to turn more heads.

Today’s announcement is the culmination of years of negotiations, struggles and a commitment to MLS and the Kansas City area. For that, the ownership group should be commended, no matter what the club’s new logo looks like, for what appears to be another success story ahead of one of the most anticipated seasons in Major League Soccer’s short history.

It goes without saying, at today’s announcement, they were always going to get it right.

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