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Sporting KC: Rules For Rebranding

Head coach <strong>Peter Vermes</strong> and team president <strong>Robb Heineman</strong>. <strong>Heineman</strong> has been the vocal link between ownership group OnGoal, LLC and the rest of the world regarding rebranding.
Head coach Peter Vermes and team president Robb Heineman. Heineman has been the vocal link between ownership group OnGoal, LLC and the rest of the world regarding rebranding.

We all know it's been a long time coming. The rumored rebranding of the Kansas City Wizards started all the way back in late July when team president Robb Heineman went on Sports Radio 810's afternoon show Between The Lines with Kevin Keitzman and dropped the first hint.

Now, with Friday's announcement of an announcement coming this Wednesday, Novemeber 17th, despite the fact that I personally am not in favor of the name change, at least to "Sporting KC," it's time to address it as reality. I've put posting on the rebranding off as long as possible, mostly because there was so much uncertainty and most everything was pure speculation until Friday.

What ownership group OnGoal, LLC is doing with the rebranding and impending name change is by no means uncharted territory for Major League Soccer clubs.

Of the 16 teams in MLS that took part in the 2010 season, four - KC (originally Wiz), FC Dallas (Burn), San Jose Earthquakes (Clash) and New York Red Bulls (NY/NJ MetroStars, MetroStars) - have at one point competed in MLS under a different namesake.

Coincidentally, this also is not the first time an MLS club has changed their name to coincide with a move to a new stadium. FCD was chosen the new name for the "Dallas"** franchise in 2005 when the team moved its home games from the Cotton Bowl to current home Pizza Hut Park. San Jose made the switch after the 1999 season, in the middle of four straight postseason-less campaings. They did, however, stick with the Earthquakes name after two seasons on hiatus after the original group moved to Houston when a team was awarded to San Jose for the 2007 season. And, the Red Bulls name obviously comes from the sale of the team to Red Bull GmbH before the 2006 season.

More than anything, though, I wanted to take just a bit of time and share some personal opinions on the rebranding, and also give OnGoal a few pointers on things NOT to say Wednesday when they announce the new name.

** quoted for the fact that they're not actually in Dallas - Frisco, where the team plays, is over an hour from Dallas. The new KC stadium will technically be in Kansas City, KS. So, credit to semantics for that one.

First of all, Sporting KC does nothing for me. At present moment, the name is a farce. The "Sporting" tradition is that of a group of sports teams all run under the same umbrella ownership. Right now, there are no other teams anywhere operating under the Sporting KC moniker. If there are going to be - and rumors are that there will be (rugby and women's soccer being the most likely, but you didn't hear that from me) - then fine, I can get behind it.

One thing that can certainly be said for OnGoal is that ever since they bought the Wizards in 2006, they have been an aggressive and ambitious group of leaders. On multiple occasions they have had agreements in place for a new stadium in various parts of the Kansas City metropolitan area. Obviously, only the last one in Kansas City, KS at Village West actually went through, but there have been ansolutely no shortages of attempts to make it happen. They certainly get all the credit in the world for that, because before they came around, the team had one foot on its way out of Kansas City.

Kansas City caught a serious bout of World Cup fever during the summer of 2010. Watch parties at KC Power&Light that brought ESPN to town were held. The biggest of which was organized by the Wizards. Two MLS clubs got to play Manchester United this year on their North American preseason tour. Were the Wizards one of them? Sure were. OnGoal did that. They've done little wrong over the past four years.

Actually, as I'm here writing this, I'm actually having a revelation for myself. Thinking of all these things that OnGoal has done right and that they have done for the team, I can't help but trust their judgment in every matter concerning Kansas City's MLS team. If they're going to bring other sports teams to Kansas City and run them with the foresight and vision with which they've grown the Wizards, then I can't wait, and I'll support every one of those teams. At least in my mind, Kansas City just got a whole lot more exciting for a sports junkie like myself.

Still, though, there are a couple of things that on Wednesday, when the new name is announced, OnGoal can NOT, under any circumstance, not matter what loaded questions they may be asked, cite as reason for changing the name.

"The Team Has Not Won Enough As The Wizards Since We TookTakeover"

Sure, since OnGoal took over in '06, the team has won zero trophies and appeared in zero MLS Cup finals. They've qualified for the playoffs twice (2007 and '08) out of the four seasons. They've also had an average finishing place of 9.4 of an average of 14 total teams in the ever fluctuating MLS ranks.

That's not ideal on-field performance, but there are some very loyal fans of this club in Kansas City, and that would be a major slap in the face to those people. When there were 3,000 people at a Wednesday night game at Arrowhead in 2000, it's still a lot of those same people that were there then, that fill out a large portion of your season ticket holders for 2011. This group of hardcore, loyal fans have been fans through second to last place seasons and a championship season.

You will lose a lot of respect for all of those positives listed above if you say that's why you decided to rebrand.

"Everybody Else Is Doing It."

Worst. Reason. Ever.

Yes, we know FCD, Real Salt Lake, Toronto FC, DC United and Chivas USA have all gone the way of Euro-based names. DC gets excused for being DC United since the league started, and the fact they are in the capitol of the United States, whether that was the intention or not. It at least makes sense.

RSL, TFC and Chivas all entered the league under those names, so no matter how silly some may sound, it's understandable. For the record, I quite like the name of RSL, and I don't even like the team itself. But, then again, I'm newer to MLS than most fans of the league, so it's just been that way as long as I've been around, so it sounds right.

As I said above, if the name change is occurring because OnGoal is preparing to bring teams in other sports to Kansas City, it makes sense. I love the ambition. Kansas City is often completely overlooked for everything; whether it be quality of city, pure relevancy or sports. Yes, we know you think that there's nothing here. We've heard it before, but KC people are proud of their city.

If a uni-brand of multiple sports teams could do anything to dispell that notion, then we should have changed the name years ago, at least as far as I'm concerned.

Maybe I've listened too much of late to team officials, or maybe I'm finally starting to see the bigger picture. Whatever it may be going on inside this poor, little head of mine, something is happening. In about 15 paragraphs I managed to convince myself.