Eastern Conference: Chicago Swing
Chicago, IL is a state with a distinct and well-known culture: hot dogs, deep dish, Polish Sausage, gangsters, and architecture. But Chicagoans also have a large contingent of loyal sports fans and an extensive culture in jazz and blues that started with the “Great Migration” of poor black workers into the South. It’s notable for artists like Nat King Cole, Benny Goodman, and Bud Freeman from the ‘20s to the ‘40s as characteristic four-to-a-bar swing-style jazz became characteristic of the city.
Aside from the above, the Chicago Swing would make for a natural addition to the league in multiple facets. Geographically, it occupies one of the few non-coastal teams in the EFL – joining Memphis and Wisconsin in that respect. It adds another large-market team with a culture clearly delineating itself from the two aforementioned brands and is just the second team from the Midwest. Chicago fans are die-hard, sticking with their home teams through thick and thin – a quality exemplified as they brave the growing pains that nearly all expansion teams experience.
Purple and/or medium-to-light blues – soulful colors characteristic of jazz when featured in art – would dominate the branding for the Swing; logo ideas could focus on trumpet/saxophone players (or even a trio of instruments, capturing the ‘big-band’ feel). Chicago players could have a strong independent streak, paralleling Chicago jazz’s distinctive liberation of the soloist from typical improvisation constraints.
Eastern Conference: Kentucky Cavalry
The apparent horse capital of the United States, Kentucky presents a natural location for a team oriented around cavalry and doing battle. Though there are several more aspects of culture specific to Kentucky – bourbon, mining, tobacco, bluegrass, and college basketball, among others – the Kentucky Derby is preceded by a two-week festival as part of the biggest day in horse racing, and the state is well-known for its cavalry units during the civil war, spanning over a dozen regiments and a half-dozen battalions, companies, and squadrons.
The theme surrounding the Cavalry is simple: a relentlessly in-sync unit that creates havoc with superior mobility and thundering momentum. In the trenches, they force open a path for running backs offensively or shut down opposing rushing attacks by trampling its offensive line. The team’s logo would naturally feature a member (or even members!) of horse-borne cavalry in a stampede-like fashion, featuring predominantly a deep, navy blue with yellow/gold or white accents. Geographically, this team once again rounds out the Eastern conference with a second midwestern team, though Kentucky is more centrally-located than Wisconsin and more east-biased than Memphis.
Western Conference: Montana Frontier
Based in Helena, Montana, the Frontier harkens back to a wider-reaching American Frontier from the formative days of the United States. Perhaps best embodied in John Gast’s “American Progress,” the notion of westward expansion was built on the backs of adventurous explorers, uprooting their lives for a chance at something better. Classical imagery of caravans/wagons led by oxen evoke images of avid Americans’ youth and idealism, and a backdrop of mountains, streams, and waterfalls capture the idyllic nature of that left unexplored.
The allure of naming a team the “Frontier” is obvious: a chance to experience that which is currently unknown, to sally forth into a brand-new journey with little more than some provisions, the clothes on their back, and a little ingenuity. It fits perfectly with the concept of expansion, where old and new players make the best of their situation in search of a higher calling. But the iconography and colors of the Frontier should represent the harsh conditions and resilience of its people – a rustic brown and white composing a covered wagon manned by a gruff, spirited settler.
I’m well over 300 words at this point, so my last recommendation for a team location & name would be the Detroit Auto.