MLS: Go brand identity

Category: Brand identity, launch; Entrant: Athletics

A yellow flag featuring the words 'Go Play!' in block lettering

The brief behind this project from MLS was an ambition to make youth soccer more accessible in America. Unlike in many other countries, youth soccer in America is still largely a pay-to-play sport that can be financially and geographically out of reach for many families. As a result, fewer children in America grow up watching and playing soccer, leading to a diminished pipeline for American soccer talent.

To solve this problem, MLS decided to use its brand awareness and resources to launch a new recreational youth league that could close the accessibility gap and get a new generation of kids involved at an earlier age. They needed a name and brand identity to crystallise their mission.

Row of outdoor adverts for MLS Go featuring photos of young people playing sport next to illustrated mascots

“Having worked on numerous adult professional soccer brands over the years (including MLS and several of its constituent leagues and clubs), we knew the American soccer landscape very well,” says Athletics. “But we also knew that youth soccer was a different brief, with different audiences and communication needs. So we embarked on a phase of interviews and research, which took us from MLS headquarters to the sidelines of youth soccer games in several large cities.

“What became clear during this research was a need to balance the inherent seriousness and professionalism of MLS with enthusiasm and affability. Because starting a new sport can be intimidating – both for parents and their children – and we wanted this league to feel as welcoming as possible.

A lime green water bottle decorated with MLS Go branded stickers that read 'Play!' and 'Go'

“To achieve this balance, we borrowed from World Cup graphic design history and illustrated our own friendly, soccer-playing mascot, Golazo, who can juggle, dribble, bicycle-kick and knee-slide celebrate with the best of them. More importantly, it puts a friendly face on a professionally linked recreational league that could otherwise seem intimidating.

“We also wanted a name that could strike this balance. We decided on MLS Go, both for its linguistic simplicity and its seamless fit with our mascot illustration concept, which works within the geometries of the uppercase G letterform.

“In addition to communicating movement and energy, Go is also a sound thatresonates within the world of soccer: Go, Goal, Golazo, Goalie, GOAT. It activates the brand and shows the league’s affable, encouraging side.”

Design Studio: Athletics
Creative Director: Malcolm Buick
Senior Designer: Ellen Voorheis
Designer: Loli Vaccaro
Animator: Jon Portman
Senior Programme Director: Kathryn Farwell