Major League Soccer is, allegedly, a professional sports organization. I was assured of this during the MLS expansion process for FC Cincinnati, where it was stated repeatedly that they were a “real” league that represented the best of what soccer could be in North America. And, on the surface, it looked to be accurate. MLS has all the things you’d expect in that regard — billionaire owners, multi-million dollar TV rights deals, a league office in a presumably very-expensive building (likely above a ground floor juice bar and a 2nd floor organic yoga studio for hypoallergenic dogs) somewhere in Manhattan.

What MLS doesn’t have, apparently, is anyone with an ounce of fucking design or branding sense. The latest example of this is today’s reveal of “MLS NEXT PRO,” the latest offering from MLS for the three dozen or so soccer players left in the United States who aren’t already signed to one of the 90 divisions of the USL:


Literally, what the fuck is this?

Let’s start with the name “MLS NEXT PRO,” which sounds like a bad pitch for a reality show where 25 photogenic contestants take turns doing feats of skill and/or making passive-aggressive comments about one another into an interview-camera. Actually, in the time it’s taken to think this concept through, I’ve actually convinced myself that this process would’ve produced a better roster than FC Cincinnati built for the 2021 season. I’d bet all the money in my wallet that a reality show contestant could outperform Kamohelo Mokotjo on a weekly basis — or, at the very least, suck for less than $1M per season. Here’s the thing, though — even the people being pitched an MLS Reality Show would ask for a better name than “MLS Next Pro.” It’s lame, generic, and has been done to death in the genre (from “America’s Next Top Model” to the seminal millennial dorm-room favorite “Next,” which taught all of us that yes — your parents and teachers *WERE* completely full of shit when they told you that looks aren’t everything). As a name for a sports league? What the fuck. Is there only one “pro” in the league (again, an electric fucking concept — a sports league entirely made up of amateurs and one “pro” on the field alongside them, trying to get their team of complete bums to play cohesively)? Hollywood has told me for decades that there are supposed to be ruthless board meetings that scuttle shitty names like this before they get off the drawing board.

And the logo? Dear fucking God. What the actual fuck is this thing? It’s like a drunken nightmare of lines arbitrarily placed in something approximating the shape of English letters. There’s absolutely no rhyme or reason as to the angle of the lines, what letters connect to one another and what letters don’t, or even the general design aesthetic. Why does the N lean forward while the P is leaning backwards? Why does the R have little forward tail at the base of it? What does any of this mean? Why are we here? Oh god, what if there’s nothing when we die — just the fucking void at the center of the absurdly large “O” in the word PRO on the bottom line of the logo? Did nothing we do mean anything?

Anyway, get excited for MLS NEXT PRO, coming soon to somewhere doing something. If we’re lucky, maybe Don Garber will call Vince McMahon and see if he’s cool selling the branding to NXT (now that they’ve ruined everything that made it good, RIP Undisputed Era) — it’s a good bet most of the hipsters who would watch this league probably own shirts with that logo already.