NEW YORK – Thursday's new MLS brand unveiling — MLS NEXT — may be viewed as a typical exercise in sports marketing and branding, involving the unfurling of a new logo.
Not for the MLS stars on hand in downtown Manhattan. The significance was not lost on them, and it runs deeper than simple aesthetics.
Setting aside talk about the crest, the three stars, the white space and the slash, the brand overhaul represented a glimpse of what's to come for MLS top scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips.
“It makes me proud," he told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday. "I want to be a part of it in the future. It seems exciting. Everyone is excited about it, especially after the World Cup the US national team had. It’s a perfect time to rebrand and launch something like this.
“I think it’s the excitement of MLS not yet having reached the potential it eventually will reach," Wright-Phillips continued. "I think everybody wants to be there when it happens and that brings a lot of people and viewers.”
And that's ultimately what makes MLS special on the global soccer landscape, according to Philadelphia Union star Maurice Edu, who knows what it's like to play in established European soccer nations like Scotland, England and Turkey.
"I think the culture is different here [in MLS] and our fans are different as well," Edu said. "But I think because this league is new, that’s a little bit different in itself. It has the potential for growth -- where this league could go and where we’re trying to push it to go. I think that’s the most exciting part about MLS and what separates it from other leagues around the world."
It's that growth and vision for what MLS could ultimately become that has Chivas USA forward Erick "El Cubo" Torres hoping to stay in the league when his loan deal expires in 2014.
"It's a radical change -- the change of the logo, the new stadiums, the new TV contracts, the new player signings, the new teams," Torres said. "All this is lifting the league into the top tier of world soccer and without a doubt that in a few years or even beginning next year, it'll be among the top leagues in the whole world."
Next year is when expansion side New York City FC comes on board, led by 32-year-old 2010 World Cup champion David Villa, who has plied his trade for the biggest clubs in La Liga and has a first-hand taste of the very elite. The experience makes for a more measured outlook from Villa when compared to the unbridled enthusiasm of the 21-year-old Torres.
"Success comes with work and here they’re working to make this league compete with the most important leagues around the world," Villa said. "Time and work and desire is what you need to achieve that.
"When it comes to attendance, MLS is already one of the best leagues in the world," Villa continued. "But through work comes growth and that growth will continue year after year. It’s early -- the league is only 20 years old, but it’s on the path to get there. Why not?"