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The identity of the MLS, North America’s top professional soccer league, has a suspect history. Forged in the early 1990s, both the league’s identity and team identities offered up the typical ‘90s aesthetic. And some of those aesthetics lasted for far too long. As we applaud the league office for modernizing its look in 2014, we turn our focus on the clubs and pick out—using insights from logo designers to help inform the list—the 10 best MLS logo designs out there.
Meet the Top 10 MLS Logo Designs
1. Portland Timbers
Simply put: There’s so much to love about the Portland Timbers’ design. The club harkens back to its roots in circular style and graphics, but pays homage to the past in a streamlined design that still gives us mountains in the background. The modern colors fit with the Pacific Northwest motif and the clever use of the ax as a “T” remains unparalleled.
2. Minnesota United
Embrace the loon. As the state bird of Minnesota, supporters have long called the team the loons, leading to its prominent location on the logo, which also features a blue stripe for the Mississippi River and grey as a nod to the material of the state’s Iron Range. The prominence and positioning of the loon, however, stands out and offers us a tremendous range of colors in a simplistic and powerful form that debuted with the MLS team in 2017. Plus, taking what is otherwise a typically static image and turning it into a dynamic bird gives us a fresh take on a bird-in-logo design.
3. Vancouver Whitecaps
Are Whitecaps about mountaintops or rough seas? This logo has them both, all while embracing a “V” at the same time. Simple, yet descriptive and full of the cool colors that have defined Vancouver for a decade—not to mention colors of the pre-MLS Whitecaps team—this logo stands out with ties to mountains and sea. Anytime you can incorporate letters into imagery, you up your chances to a strong logo. Vancouver did just that.
4. Los Angeles FC
Embrace the gold in the brand new logo from a team not yet in action on the field. The new design for a team set to debut in 2018 has been described as elegant and spare, but it evokes all things good about Hollywood. The gold—paired with black—especially positions the logo in a singular space within the MLS and much of the United States’ sporting world. Plus, the winged L.A. comes across as pure brilliance.
5. New York City FC
In a world of shields, New York City FC instead went with a badge, a nod to the city’s historic use of subway tokens. The team’s version of the token, created by Rafael Esquer, cuts a pentagon out of the center to represent the five boroughs. The Gotham typeface ties to city signage and the monogram was meant to reflect the city’s graphical history.
6. Chicago Fire
With a name that evokes history in Chicago, the team’s logo ties to that fire-to-rebuild history with a fireman-style badge. The “C” in the middle represents Chicago, similar to other key Chicago sports teams, but with its own typeface twist. And the six-point star connects to the city flag and its representation of historical events in Chicago, giving this logo a modern twist on history.
7. DC United
Updated in 2015, the fresh DC United logo still plays its eagle front and center, but gives it a more polished version—and with wings that extend beyond the typical shield shape. The stars and stripes in the logo tie to the District of Columbia flag and British designer Peter Horridge darkened the red. He also gave us a new shape, drawn from George Washington’s family crest.
8. FC Dallas
Yes, we have a shield here, something you’ll see far too much of in this European-dominated design world, but this one screams Texas. And we can appreciate when something typically one thing (European) screams something else (Texas). The balance, yet boldness, of the combination works.
9. Columbus Crew
The Crew has grown up significantly since the club’s early iteration of design. All along the way, though, Columbus has owned its colors and then created a balanced, reverent identity that has plenty of nods—some subtle and some not as subtle—to team history without embracing embarrassing ‘90s design.
10. Orlando City
Overlooking the simple fact that Orlando City SC uses purple—at least the team embraces the distinctive look of a relatively new addition to the MLS—the powerful use of the Lion, a nod to the King of the Jungle mantra the team used throughout its USL run, is commended. The 21 sun flares bordering the lion signifies the club as the 21st franchise for the MLS. Simple, yet distinctive.