Its slate of teams is set, and the 33-club USL is just weeks away from the start of its 2018 regular season. In one of the major storylines for this season, there has been an influx of expansion entries and name changes, making for a shakeup when it comes to team branding around the league.
This year, the USL is welcoming two clubs from the NASL—North Carolina FC and Indy Eleven. Along with the addition of those teams, the USL is also introducing four expansion clubs this year, all of which have announced their branding in advance of the upcoming season.
The identities of some of the expansion clubs have been known for a considerable amount of time. Nashville SC, for instance, was unveiled as Nashville FC in 2016, but within months modified its name after encountering intellectual property concerns. Meanwhile, Fresno FC and Las Vegas Lights FC both announced their monikers last summer, and Lights FC later followed up by unveiling its logo in the fall.
Also noteworthy: the Lights generated quite a bit of press with unique neon-themed kits. Designed in conjunction with sponsor Zappos, the black jerseys feature splashes of cyan, magenta and neon yellow trim. And, in a move that will probably not be endearing to opponents, the inside of the new jersey features a smiley face–designed to be raised over the head after scoring a goal.
Among the four expansion clubs, the most recent branding unveiling was that of Atlanta United 2. Owned by MLS’s Atlanta United FC, United 2—or ATL UTD 2, as it is often referred to—will play its games at Coolray Field in nearby Gwinnett County. With a logo and color scheme that resembles its MLS parent, ATL UTD 2 is entering the USL after Atlanta United FC experienced record-breaking success on the attendance front during its first season.
While the branding of expansion clubs has brought some new identities to the USL, one of its existing teams has undergone a drastic identity change. Last fall, the Harrisburg City Islanders announced that they were overhauling their longstanding identity and changing their name to Penn FC.
Complete with a new name and an overhauled aesthetic, the Penn FC identity reflects some changes in the organization. In addition to the announcement of its new name, Penn FC revealed an agreement with Rush Soccer that will put the USL club in a unique situation by making it a “professional team at the top of the largest academy system in the world.” While Penn FC has implemented these changes, one familiar element will remain for the coming season, as the club will continue to play its home matches at FNB Field in Harrisburg. FNB Field is also the home of baseball’s Harrisburg Senators (Class AA; Eastern League).
Now that the 2018 USL season is approaching, attention can soon turn to the games on the field. It will also provide the opportunity for these new and overhauled identities to be seen in action for the first time, adding another layer of intrigue to the upcoming season.
Image courtesy Las Vegas Lights FC.
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