MLS: Grading the Western Conference mascots

MLS has its fair share of mascots. Some are better than others. So, we graded them all and are wrapping up with the Western Conference.

We are going through and grading all of the mascots throughout Major League Soccer. In the Western Conference, mascots are much more prevalent than in the East. While there are only eight mascots in the Eastern Conference, the West has 13, five of which come from the Colorado Rapids, which we will grade individually.

Before we begin, we should preface the difference between match tradition and mascot. Specifically, Timber Joey. While he is a common figure in Providence Park, I’m not sure he fits the category of mascot like the others do. We’ll dive into the best match traditions later, and Joey will be there. But for now, let’s get into the grades for the mascots in the Western Conference.

You can check out the Eastern Conference mascot grades here.

FRISCO, TX – SEPTEMBER 14: Tex Hooper waves a banner before the FC Dallas, Vancouver FC matchup at Toyota Stadium in Frisco on September 14, 2014 in Frisco Texas. (Photo by Rick Yeatts/Getty Images)

FC Dallas – Tex Hooper: B-

This is a solid choice for a mascot. Like Orlando and Cincinnati, Dallas’ crest has their mascot so there isn’t a lot of freedom to choose. The mascot sticks with the rich history of cattle Texas and even is in the name.

It’s a mascot unique to Texas so it gets an advantage for staying local. Tex isn’t a very complicated mascot, but it works well with the club and is one of the best in the league.

Houston Dynamo, Atlanta United

HOUSTON, TX – FEBRUARY 08: Houston Dynamo’s mascot Diesel meets with fans during the Houston Sports Awards on February 8, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images for Houston Sports Awards)

Houston Dynamo – Dynamo Diesel: B+

If you thought a fox was unique to New England, think again. The Houston Dynamo — and the Houston Dash of the NWSL — have a fox of their own. Unlike New England, the name ‘Diesel’ is where Houston gets creative. Houston has a rich history of oil, hence the former NFL team being named the Houston Oilers before moving to Nashville and becoming the Tennessee Titans.

Another plus is students at the Art Institute of Houston designed the mascot. The Dynamo stayed local and supported students while doing it, top-notch.

Los Angeles Galaxy – Cozmo: A+

Cozmo is up there as one of the best mascots in the league. The LA Galaxy have a hard route with their outer space branding, but they did it perfectly with Cozmo.

Fans aren’t really sure what Cozmo is, so it only makes sense that he is an alien. The whole design and naming of Cozmo works perfectly with Los Angeles, and who could forget that picture with José Mourinho?

Minnesota United – PK the Loon: B+

Most people don’t know what a loon even is, but essentially it’s a species of bird that happens to be the state bird of Minnesota. So, while it seems weird at first, it makes perfect sense why Minnesota would choose that for their mascot.

Many sports teams have birds as their mascot, but there is only one club that is a loon and that’s MNUFC. The only thing that makes PK better is when he’s singing ‘Wonderwall’ after Minnesota home wins with supporters.

SANDY, UT – MARCH 14: “Leo” the mascot of Real Salt Lake greets the fans before the start of their game against the Philadelphia Union at Rio Tinto Stadium on March 14, 2015 in Sandy, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)

Real Salt Lake – Leo the Lion B+

Another lion, but RSL has a little more depth to it rather than just having a lion on the crest. The word ‘real’ in Spanish means royalty, which is the reason Real Madrid’s crest has a crown on the top. And what animal is the king of the jungle? A lion.

So, there is a deeper meaning to RSL’s choice of a mascot than simply choosing a random animal. The NWSL club, Utah Royals, also uses a lion and sticks with the theme of royalty in Salt Lake City. A basic mascot but it works well with the rest of the branding.

SAN JOSE, CA – FEBRUARY 29: Mascot during a game between Toronto FC and San Jose Earthquakes at Earthquakes Stadium on February 29, 2020 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Lyndsay Radnedge/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

San Jose Earthquakes – Q: C+

This might be the most confusing mascot in the entire league. To San Jose’s credit, it is hard to imagine a mascot for a club called the ‘Earthquakes.’

‘Q’ is similar to Cozmo because fans aren’t really sure what ‘Q’ even is. San Jose didn’t just default to some animal so they deserve some recognition for creativity. But I’m not sure if their creativity makes any sense.

Seattle – Sammy the Sounder: B-

‘Sammy’ is one of the more interesting mascots in the league. It is the only mascot that is a whale in MLS, a nod to the Pacific Northwest’s population of whales off the coast. This mascot has been a staple for Seattle in the city’s rich soccer history.

The only negative is that ‘Sammy’ shares an uncanny resemblance to the Vancouver Canucks’ mascot ‘Fin’ in the National Hockey League. Neither city likes the other very much, so having almost identical mascots doesn’t seem like a good idea… especially with Seattle expanding to the NHL in 2021.

Sporting Kansas City – Blue the Dog:C-

There isn’t a lot to say about ‘Blue.’ Sporting KC didn’t have a mascot in their name or crest so they went the dog route and they didn’t mess it up too much.

But like in the Eastern Conference grades, it’s hard to make your mascot stand out when a dog is one of the most widely used mascots in America. However, SKC did a good job naming it ‘Blue,’ in association with the famous ‘Welcome to Blue Hell’ and of course, ‘Blue’s Clues.’

VANCOUVER, CANADA – MAY 28: Vancouver Whitecaps FC mascot Spike entertains the crowd during their MLS match against the New York Red Bulls May 28, 2011 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

Vancouver Whitecaps – Spike: B+

‘Spike’ is similar to ‘PK’ of Minnesota. On first glance, fans aren’t really sure what it is, but it makes sense the more you think.

‘Spike’ is a belted kingfisher, a bird common to Vancouver area. The team name ‘Whitecaps’ is a nod to the city’s snow-covered mountains, but that is nearly impossible to make into a mascot. So, they chose a bird native to the area. The mascot is a staple of the city while still holding onto their ‘Whitecaps’ name. 

COMMERCE CITY, CO – JULY 23: Colorado Rapids mascot Edson interacts with young spectators before a game between the Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on July 23, 2016 in Commerce City, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

Colorado Rapids

Edson the Eagle: C

This is interesting from the Rapids, mainly because eagles are usually reserved for Washington D.C. Colorado made an excellent move and released him on July 4, 2007. What makes the release even better is that it was the first time the bald eagle was taken off the endangered species list for 40 years.

Having an eagle doesn’t make too much sense for the Rapids, but the release of ‘Edson’ was good timing and meaningful, so they get a pass.

COMMERCE CITY, CO – OCTOBER 02: Mascot Marco of the Colorado Rapids pumps up the crowd against D.C. United at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on October 2, 2010 in Commerce City, Colorado. D.C. United defeated the Colorado Rapids 1-0. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

Marco Von Bison: A-

‘Marco’ joined the Rapids’ mascot family shortly after ‘Edson’ came to Colorado but was released on Aug. 26, 2007. A bison is a very different mascot from almost all American sports so it’s even more unique in MLS.

The bison was a very similar choice to the eagle in that it had recently increased in number, especially in the Rocky Mountain area. Colorado is using their mascots to help promote wildlife in their area while staying creative to do it. An excellent choice.

COMMERCE CITY, CO – JULY 4: Mascots pose for a photo during halftime of the game between the New York Red Bulls and the Colorado Rapids on July 4, 2008 at Dicks Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado. (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/MLS via Getty Images)

Jorge El Mapache: C

‘Jorge’ came into the Rapids mascot family on their final regular-season match of 2007. Besides being a racoon, which we’ll get to in a second, the naming of all these mascots deserves credit. The Rapids could have gone with something simple but were creative in naming all of their mascots.

Racoons aren’t the most endangered species in the world. In fact, there seems to be a plethora of them. So, the Rapids can say that racoons are native to the area because they are, though they are not special in Colorado. Unlike the bison and eagle, however, there isn’t anything the release was not timed with an increase in number.

Franz the Fox: B

Well, foxes aren’t actually as rare in MLS as we once thought. ‘Franz’ joins the New England Revolution and the Houston Dynamo as fox mascots in the league. This was the fourth and final installment of Colorado’s mascot release on July 9, 2008 against UANL Tigres.

Foxes are native to the Rocky Mountain area like the other three mascots, so it makes sense for the Rapids to use one for a mascot. Similar to the racoon, there isn’t anything special about the release but still not the worst choice for a mascot.

1 Jun 1997: The mascot for the Colorado Rapids shoots water from a water gun during their 2-0 MLS win over the Tampa Bay Mutiny at Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado. Mandatory Credit: Brian Bahr /Allsport

Rapidman: A-

‘Rapidman’ isn’t in use for Colorado anymore, but he has built a legacy as a mascot so we had to include him in the list. He had been with the Rapids since 1996 and retired the same day ‘Edson’ came to the club.

He’s the only human mascot in MLS, and there aren’t even that many in professional sports. The name ‘Rapidman’ isn’t the most creative thing in the world, but we have to respect the legacy as one of the original mascots in MLS. Respect your elders, so he gets a boost.

And there we have it, the Western Conference mascots rated. Who says we’re running out of content ideas?