Tom Hunt, United’s chief operating officer, called the new look “more of a modern evolution than a revolution.”
Through market research, the club concluded “the current brand did not adequately represent the United community.” However, United also wanted to maintain “a strong tie to the tradition.”
The change comes at a transitional time for the organization. Plans for a new stadium at Buzzard Point, near Nationals Park, played into the redesign of the crest. United is hopeful of breaking ground next summer and opening the venue in 2018. The team has played all 20 seasons at RFK Stadium, a rundown facility that opened in 1961.
The last time United altered the crest was after the 1997 season, softening a militaristic version of an eagle with three soccer balls.
The shape of the new logo, the club said, draws from George Washington’s family crest, featured in stained glass at Selby Abbey in Yorkshire, England.
The eagle’s head has remained the same since the inaugural 1996 campaign, but the club decided to turn the direction so it’s “looking forward.” The wings were enlarged to extend beyond the shield, “reinforcing the core brand value of freedom.” The red coloring is also darker than in the previous logo.
British-based graphic artist Peter Horridge crafted the new logo. He had redesigned the shields for the Liverpool FC and England’s Football Association.
Among MLS’s 10 founding teams, United has undergone few branding changes over two decades. Many organizations have altered their color schemes and crests. The Columbus Crew, 2015 MLS Cup finalist, changed its logo last year. Four original clubs have changed their nickname: New York (MetroStars to Red Bulls), Dallas (Burn to FC Dallas), Kansas City (Wiz, Wizards, then Sporting KC) and San Jose (Clash to Earthquakes).
United did not have any serious discussions about changing its nickname or colors, Hunt said.