MLS celebrates 17th anniversary of formal debut

Alan I. Rothenberg (third from left) shares the stage with FIFA's Joao Havelange and Sepp Blatter at the MLS unveiling

NEW YORK – December 17 may fall during the offseason, but there it is still reason to celebrate if you’re an MLS fan: It’s the most important birthday in league history.

This year marks the 17th anniversary of the first formal unveiling of Major League Soccer to the world. Back on Dec. 17, 1993, the chairman and CEO of the World Cup USA 1994, Alan I. Rothenberg, presented the framework for America’s new league and unveiled the logo in an event held in Las Vegas in conjunction with the World Cup final draw.  

“It was a very exciting time,” said MLS President Mark Abbott, who was a senior vice president for business development at the time. “There was a FIFA executive committee meeting where Alan presented the basic business plan for what became MLS. And immediately after that, we went into a press conference where Alan announced that FIFA had reviewed and approved the plan that we had put in place for what ultimately would become the league.”

FIFA had required the formation of a national league as one of the conditions for awarding the World Cup to the US in 1994.

Abbott was part of a team of individuals who worked on developing the league blueprint in the six months leading up to the formal announcement. Earlier that same December, the final plans were presented to the US Soccer Federation, which had to provide the first sign-off before the league went public in Las Vegas.

Once the formal unveiling took place, the wheels were set in motion. That same weekend, the 22 cities interested in becoming MLS markets were provided with details for the selection process.

Another piece of the legacy left behind on that Dec. 17 came in the form of the official MLS logo, which is still used today, albeit slightly modified from its original form. Abbott tells the story of how five nationally renowned design firms were commissioned to submit 15 to 20 logos each before the group was whittled down to a handful of finalists.

“The one I liked is ultimately what became the logo, but Alan was leaning towards a different one,” Abbott said. “Alan’s wife also liked the winning logo and that may have played a part in the final decision.”

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