by RYAN BRISTER
With a significant nod to the past, Columbus Crew SC took a step into the future last night, tweaking their name and changing their crest entirely.
No longer merely the Columbus Crew, the club’s new crest gets rid of the oft-mocked construction workers that adorned its predecessor. The new crest consists of concentric circles taken from the state flag of Ohio. In the innermost circle, half is dedicated to a checkerboard pattern, an homage to the flags their supporters wave. The other half features nine stripes, representing the other inaugural Major League Soccer franchises, and a 96 (their first year) in a shield above them all, meant to signify Crew SC’s status as the first and oldest club in the league.
The team has been tweeting the hashtag #NewCrew and touting this rebrand as the dawn of a new era in the club’s history, but in many ways, it is a culmination of a turnaround that has long been underway. After bottoming out at 12,185 fans per game in 2011, Crew SC’s attendance has risen steadily. Through 16 games, this year’s average of 16,880 would be Columbus’ best since 2002, when Crew Stadium was the only soccer-specific stadium in MLS.
In July 2013, Anthony Precourt bought the Crew from their original owners, the Hunt Sports Group, for a then-record $68 million. Precourt quickly named changing the crest as one of his biggest priorities, but also made improvements to the stadium and the product on its field. They’ve been repeatedly linked to USMNT-midfielder Mix Diskerud, and this week the Crew reacquired Kei Kamara, who began his career in Columbus in 2006.
The current players, meanwhile, are in the midst of a playoff chase for the first time since 2011.
The Crew’s change is just the latest in a series of branding moves for Major League Soccer and its clubs. The San Jose Earthquakes changed their crest in January. Expansion clubs New York City FC and Orlando City SC unveiled their inaugural MLS crests during this season, and the league as a whole changed its logo just last month. The New England Revolution are now the only team in MLS whose crest has remained entirely unchanged since the league’s first season in 1996.