A Meditation on MLS Team Names

Recently I was asked about the name for the new MLS team in Atlanta, Atlanta United FC. I said it was kind of boring, but other than that, I didn’t really have a problem with that.

Generally, though, I do agree with my friend that I prefer American soccer teams have American-style names (that is, names that indicate a) where you’re from and b) your nickname). So let’s lead by example here and examine all of the current and future team names in MLS.

The good:

  • Columbus Crew SC: one of only two MLS teams that uses “SC” for “soccer club” instead of “FC”. I don’t have an inherent problem with using “football club”, but still, it’s nice.
  • Philadelphia Union: an original team name that has allusions to other soccer team names and is referential to the city. 
  • Portland Timbers: almost doesn’t count because it refers to an old, pre-existing team, but who am I to argue with this guy?
  • Seattle Sounders FC: also almost doesn’t count, but it’s good and unique.

Most MLS team names fall into the “eh, they’re not terrible” category, such as the aforementioned Atlanta United FC. Of the nicknames, I’m not crazy about the Dynamo, Rapids, or Impact. Chicago Fire is not only bland but referring to historical disasters almost seems sort of offensive? As for the San Jose Earthquakes, well, it’s sort of an obvious name for a California team. And I get the allusion the LA Galaxy are going for, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

That said, none of those are as bad as:

  • New York Red Bulls: the only team in MLS named after a sponsor. It’s just tacky.
  • FC Dallas: I don’t mind using “FC”, but I draw the line at imitating non-English grammar rules.
  • Sporting Kansas City: Again, this isn’t a valid construct in English, and most of the teams that use this are Portuguese.

And then there’s my least favorite, and the only one I really, actively dislike:

  • Real Salt Lake: I dislike this one for several reasons. For starters, it’s not English. Secondly, there’s no monarchy in the United States, thus, the team has never, and will never, receive royal patronage. Third, because of their association with the Spanish monarchy, rooting for a Real team is sort of like rooting for The Man, especially given some of the Real clubs’ associations in Franco-era Spain.

So, there you have it. My recommendation to any future MLS team owners: pick a good nickname, if possible, if not, Wherever FC is the safe choice, and at all costs avoid allusions to Spanish royalty.