Left Hooks was an online literary magazine my friend started up last year. Since getting it going he’s decided to transition to being a press creating Gray Duck Press.You can check out a sampling of its first title here.
The review will close soon, but I thought I’d take a moment to re-post the listicle essay I wrote for it on US soccer crests. It was meant as a lighthearted piece giving fans both new and old of the sport a little taste of the game’s history here in the States.
Thank you Brett Ortler for creating Left Hooks and giving me a small spot in it!
All soccer fans have their allegiances. There are those that are strict, single team supporters. They are admirable, but being such a strident loyalist ignores one profound fact of being a US soccer fan–very few teams last long. Professional soccer in the US comes and goes. As a case in point: there are far more vintage soccer logos than there are teams. To cope, many supporters develop multiple fandoms across several leagues and nations. This is meant to hedge ones bets, as it were, so that you aren’t left bereft of sport having to slum it in some bar trying desperately to coax you into ravenously consuming the nubile flesh of unpaid collegiate boys.
Yeah, college sports are dodgy. And you’re kinda dodgy for liking it.
Back to the point, we have several teams we follow. I count myself a supporter of Manchester United, Minnesota United, Detroit City FC, still for some unknown reason the Chicago Fire, Chicago Red Stars, FC United of Manchester, the Netherlands national team, and Minneapolis City. These are all the teams of which I own kits, scarves, shirts, or some other product. But this still isn’t a complete list of the teams I love to follow, engage with, get stuff of, share info about, go see play, follow online, or watch streaming.
We do this so we aren’t at a loss, because for US soccer fans, loss is ever present. Leagues collapse. Teams dissolve. Players disappear.
I’m not trying to bring you down. In fact, all of this is a preface. There are teams out there we all remember. Nostalgia is the defining characteristic of the generations sired by Baby Boomers. But there are teams that existed few if any actually recall, and we all need to take a moment and honor them. The best way to do so? Rank team logos.
So here are my Top 10 long forgotten, never trendy vintage soccer logos.
- Oakland Clippers
Take a moment to appreciate this crest. The elegance of it. The Oakland Clippers existed for two seasons from 1968-1969 in two difference leagues, the National Professional Soccer League and the original North American Soccer League. The team was almost entirely peopled with Yugoslavians, a now extinguished nationality, and was successful then disappeared.
- San Antonio Thunder
As a counter to the elegant Oakland Clippers, I give you the School House Rock-esque San Antonio Thunder logo. For two seasons (1975-1976), the Thunder played in the original NASL before relocating to Honolulu to become Team Hawaii for one season before dissolving. San Antonio is no stranger to soccer teams coming and going. The current NASL hosted the San Antonio Scorpions before that team fell apart and now in the USL the remnants play under the moniker San Antonio FC.
- Oklahoma City Slickers
Staying on the theme of truly awful caricatures, the Oklahoma City Slickers (give the pun a moment to sink in) was an early 80s team playing in the American Soccer League. The City Slickers were middling at best playing in unstable leagues, which inevitably lead to its demise. The team changed its name to the Stampede for a season before moving to Tulsa to become the Tornados for all of six games before its league collapsed.
- Boston Shamrock Rovers
This Dick & Jane logo of a team that assumed an association with an overseas team would play well in the States a la Rayo OKC is brilliant. Boston Rovers lasted one year, 1967, and was made up of fourteen Irishmen, a Scot, and a Brazilian-American.
- Boston Beacons
The Beacons were the team the remnants of the Rovers became when the original NASL came into existence. Like their predecessor, the Beacons lasted one terrible season but did play in Fenway so that’s something, I guess. I love this crest for it’s utter stupidity and total simplicity.
- New York Generals
Before the New York Cosmos, there was the New York Generals, a team as successful as the storied Harlem Globetrotter opponents of the same name. In 1967, the Generals were part of the National Professional Soccer League and then became a founding member of the original NASL. One could argue that New York has always been green and gold, but no one knows where the four stars came from or why a pentagonal ‘G’ makes any sense.
- Pittsburgh Phantoms
Speaking of stylized nonsense, the Pittsburgh Phantoms gave us a logo that I wish had actually been their crest but in 1968 kits were usually so bland in the US as to exclude such things. The Phantoms played one middling season in the National Professional Soccer League enduring low attendance and lawsuits. I love this logo because it reminds of Space Ghost.
- San Diego Jaws
In San Diego, you live your life like every week is Shark Week. Unlike the Phantoms, the Jaws were able to have its logo as a crest on its kits and it was amazing. Thank you, 1976. Nothing about this team was successful, but like a shark it just couldn’t stop moving. Originally, the Jaws were the Baltimore Comets (a team that had been in the NASL for two season already and had its own dreadful crest). After one season, the Jaws left San Diego to become the Las Vegas Quicksilvers (a team that fielded a 35 year old Eusebio) before deciding Nevada was awful and returning to San Diego to become the Sockers (a profoundly stupid name), a team that lasted until the mid-1990s.
But, dude, a friggin’ shark crest.
- Vancouver Royals
If you thought I was going to leave Canada out of this list, then allow me to disabuse you. When the United Soccer Association merged with the National Professional Soccer League to create the original NASL in 1968, it was the Royals who first represented Vancouver with the Whitecaps not arriving on the scene until 1974. Of all of the crests talked about thus far, the Royals have the classiest. It is simple but striking, which makes it a fabulous crest.
- Washington Darts
It’s only been in the last few years that soccer teams in the US have realized they can have a crest without a soccer ball in it. And even now, maybe 90% of all crests still hold to the 1970s ethic of bluntness. The Darts logo is terrible. So terrible, you have to love it. It’s the kind of font that makes TechniColor and CinemaScope new again for all the kids obsessed with Logan’s Run. This team matters, however, to the US soccer landscape. The Washington Darts played in the American Soccer League from 1967-1969 and then joined the original NASL. The team moved to Florida in 1972 to become the Miami Gatos (a team with a logo Puma would covet), then from 1973-1976 the Miami Toros, then the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers from 1977-1983, before finally coming to rest in the Twin Cities as the Minnesota Strikers finally ending operation as an indoor team in 1988.