Austin’s MLS Soccer Identity™

🤔Think About This

At the beginning of August we had no professional soccer. We’ll close out August with the an announcement of USL’s intent to return in 2019 and some recent, additional, and tangible proof that Austin is very much in consideration for an MLS franchise.

We’re of course talking about the discovery of two very recent trademark filings by MLS for two team names: “Austin FC” and “Austin Athletic”.

🤷‍♀️What Do the Trademarks Mean for Austin

MLS has been known to speculatively trademark names before and not use them. It could be part of a broader viral scheme to acknowledge to Austin and other markets that Austin is still very much in play and for organizations like ours to use this clue to help generate more buzz and support. If so, well done MLS.

Notable however is this data point, as called out by Austin American-Stateman writer Kevin Lyttle:

“MLS reiterated to me today that Austin will NOT jump anybody on that 12-city expansion bid list (teams 25 through 28).”

This is a follow-up to his article on the subject in the Statesman: “MLS trademarks possible names for potential Austin franchise.”

So, if one of the “next four” expansion selections is off the table, this leaves only a few plausible possibilities:

  • It could be a reactionary defensive measure to freeze out the recently announced USL Austin owners from using certain names before MLS can.
  • There’s a long-term plan out beyond the 12 expansion bid process which Austin is part of. Why file a trademark now though? See above bullet.
  • A potential club relocation or San Antonio putting the team in Austin being a condition of being awarded a franchise.
  • Could there be a leverage play going on? Such as an effort for an existing team’s city to step-up with support or getting other cities to more aggressively compete for a team.
  • An MLS-owned USL club like all the “2” clubs (Sounders 2, Timbers 2, etc.). This alone would lead to a number of interesting questions given the USL Austin news earlier in August. Maybe USL Austin had to concede sharing the market to keep the franchise? They get Elroy and Southeast Austin, another club gets Cedar Park and Northwest Austin, both fight to pull fans in from various sections of Austin-proper in-between? Admittedly weird and wild speculation, but again, we were were at professional soccer-zero a few weeks ago, so at this point…

🛡What Do the Club Names Mean for Austin

Great branding is hard. Very hard. Great soccer branding is even harder. You’re talking about a city who’s previous team was called the “AzTeX”.

Will one of these trademarks be the name of the team? Well, they didn’t register them without a potential purpose in mind. This may also only represent the first entries of a larger list. However, you can’t maximize the value of a “big reveal” media event or engage the local supporters on identity if everyone already knows what it’s going to be. It could be part of some market research testing: Leak the listings, see what the reactions are, and iterate on the brand strategy.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. If the announcement was “Austin can have an MLS team, but it has to be called ‘Real Austin Brisket Tacos United FC’” — nobody’s really going to go: “Nope. Hard pass.” The name would be a miss, but it would probably be the best — and tastiest — crest in the league overnight!

If we were MLS though, we’d have the actual list of non-obvious, jaw-droppingly awesome club names registered under some other entity to not draw immediate attention to them — or not yet registered at all!

For example, above is a trademark filing for Viva Vegas that isn’t under MLS, but has the same attorney of record as the Austin trademarks — and also filed within the same week. This might not be odd at all — there are firms that specialize in this kind of thing for large organizations. On the other hand, the league might be sitting on all kinds of speculative trademark bets under all kinds of names, cities, and entities.

Side note of wild speculation: Austin being pitted against Las Vegas for whatever it is MLS is doing is way more worrisome than “competing” against San Antonio.

There’s also the issue that both “Austin FC” and “Austin Athletic” are being actively used locally and neither club are likely jazzed about getting stomped on by Division 1. This is probably something easily solved with a “charitable donation” and/or licensing back from MLS — especially if the league wants to keep the name warm and trademark active until they are ready to use it long-term. Austin pro soccer has had a challenging history with our huge soccer fan base. MLS knows this and isn’t likely to roll into town and roll right over existing local clubs in their effort to win the hearts and minds of local supporters.

🙋So Now What?

Well, August turned out to be pretty busy. If this is a breadcrumb, there will likely be more. Stay tuned to MLS in Austin and follow the trail with us to get all of the updates and happenings. Oh, and tell a friend — or ten!


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