In San Diego, is it ‘face’ time?

City’s hope­ful MLS fran­chise leaves vot­ing on nick­name to fans — with funny re­sults

The Washington Post Sunday - - WASHINGTONPOST.COM/SPORTS - BY MARISSA PAYNE marissa.payne@wash­post.com Ex­cerpted from wash­ing­ton­post.com/ ear­lylead

Here’s a hy­po­thet­i­cal con­ver­sa­tion among soc­cer fans:

“Hey, do you guys know what time the game starts tonight?”

“7 o’clock. Who are they play­ing again?” “Footy McFooty Face.” It is hy­po­thet­i­cal at the mo­ment, but thou­sands of fans are hop­ing it will be­come a real­ity should San Diego win its bid to set up an ex­pan­sion team in MLS.

The own­er­ship group bid­ding for the team ap­par­ently didn’t learn from oth­ers’ mis­takes and have de­cided to leave the re­spon­si­bil­ity of pick­ing a name up to the masses.

With more than 2,000 votes as of Fri­day af­ter­noon, San Diego Footy McFooty Face was light-years ahead of the other con­tenders, in­clud­ing the San Diego Bad Hom­bres.

There are 20 fi­nal­ists to­tal, which the San Diego group nar­rowed down from the 1,000 or so sub­mit­ted on­line by fans (or so-called fans).

Ac­cord­ing to the group’s Face­book page, where fans be­gan sub­mit­ting their votes on Fri­day, the field will even­tu­ally be whit­tled down to 10 that will be sent to MLS for fi­nal ap­proval.

If Footy McFooty Face doesn’t get fi­nal ap­proval (and it likely won’t), fans might still have a chance to in­cor­po­rate the silli­ness into the team later.

“Note — Soc­cer Club or Foot­ball Club can be added to names, and sim­i­larly, a nick­name or mas­cot can be added to tra­di­tional names,” the San Diego group posted to Face­book. “You, the fans, will help us de­cide on that later!”

What could pos­si­bly go wrong? Lots, ac­tu­ally. Just ask Moun­tain Dew, the U.K.’s Nat­u­ral En­vi­ron­ment Re­search Coun­cil or the Philadel­phia Zoo, all of which turned to the masses for help nam­ing some­thing and all of whom got burned.

When it asked the masses to name a new ap­ple-fla­vored ver­sion of the sug­ary soda in 2014, Moun­tain Dew wound up with this doozy: “Hitler did noth­ing wrong.”

The Nat­u­ral En­vi­ron­ment Re­search Coun­cil asked the masses to vote to name a new $288 mil­lion re­search ves­sel last year and ended up with “Boaty McBoat­face,” Footy McFooty Face’s in­spi­ra­tion.

And when the Philadel­phia Zoo tried to crowd­source a name for its new­est baby go­rilla months later, they got “Haram­baby,” in ref­er­ence to Harambe, the go­rilla that was shot and killed at the Cincin­nati Zoo after a child fell into its en­clo­sure.

No sur­prise, none stuck.

Boaty McBoat­face ended up the RRS Sir David At­ten­bor­ough, named after a vet­eran BBC pre­sen­ter.

“Hitler did noth­ing wrong” Dew ended up Elec­tric Ap­ple Dew.

And Haram­baby is now named Amani, which means “peace” in Swahili.

Like its pre­de­ces­sors, Footy McFooty Face is, um, fac­ing an up­hill bat­tle. Even if it wins and MLS some­how okays it (in of those names fans’ dreams), there’s no guar­an­tee San Diego will even win its bid for the ex­pan­sion team.

Ac­cord­ing to the San Diego Union Tri­bune, there are 11 other mar­kets in the run­ning for a team and MLS only has room for two more to join the league in 2020.

Sacra­mento, St. Louis, and Tampa, are the likely front-run­ners, the pa­per re­ports, be­cause they are three of the big­ger mar­kets vy­ing for a team.

San Diego does have one thing none of those cities has, how­ever — Lan­don Dono­van. The for­mer U.S. na­tional team stand­out is all-in when it comes to San Diego’s bid.

“Our goal re­ally now is to en­er­gize the peo­ple that want this and to make sure they are in­volved and that they are push­ing for it,” he told Sports Il­lus­trated this week. “It’s very grass roots. It’s very or­ganic.”

Dono­van de­scribed his fi­nan­cial stake in the po­ten­tial team as “very sub­stan­tial” and he said he has plans to join the front of­fice if San Diego wins the bid.

“I’ve been wait­ing for some­thing to cap­ti­vate me and to find some­thing I’m re­ally truly pas­sion­ate about,” he said. “When the pos­si­bil­ity first came about I was ex­cited by it.”

As far as crowd­sourc­ing the name, Dono­van is all for it, de­spite Footy McFooty Face lead­ing the vote.

“If the fans feel part of the process and more con­nected to what’s go­ing on, then they’re go­ing to own it,” Dono­van said.

JAE C. HONG/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Lan­don Dono­van is help­ing San Diego’s bid for an MLS team. Sacra­mento, St. Louis and Tampa are the front-run­ners.

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