Club Toledo: Far From "Regional"
When you think soccer in Ohio, you’d travel several layers down before you’d find Club Toledo, who play in the Northwest Ohio Champions League. That doesn’t mean they haven’t made waves in their level however. Jacob Mercer, club owner is quick to point that out. “We are back-to-back league champions and are looking to expand our operations and compete on a more regional level. For example, later this summer, we are hoping to take a squad down to Fort Wayne, IN to play in the USASA Region 2 Tournament of Champions. We've also kept a close eye on the Amateur Cup this year, and hope to be able to participate in 2020.”
However, playing at that level in a state which has exploded in soccer clubs (and even leagues!) in the last couple of years can leave Club Toledo being overlooked by casual fans. With catching more eyes in mind, Mercer partnered with Icarus FC to produce some spectacular new kits. “I have been following Icarus over the past year and they consistently put out great custom jerseys. When I contacted Robby, he was really responsive and was willing to work with any ideas that I had.”
Prior to working Icarus, Mercer had allowed financial factors to be the primary driver in his choice of kits. “The past two years, I had tried to find the most affordable jersey that matched our colors.” Any operator in the lower leagues understands this quandary - money is tight, you’ve got to make every cent stretch as far as possible. But that desire to save cash was resulting in complaints from players. “I've had these jerseys for two years, and the guys have complained that they aren't the best material in terms of breathability. This is particularly important because most of our season is mid-day on Sunday's from June-September.“
One of the best parts of working with Robby is his constant desire to create functional kits, designed in line with the hometown of the club (yes, Icarus sponsors this column, but look over his work, we’re not lying). ”I think he and I shared the desire to make sure the jerseys had some sort of connection back to our community as well. Our team colors are white, black, and red. The white represents the Glass City, the black is for the Black Swamp area, and red is for the state of Ohio.” Some of the Toledo-specific details are not obvious to the casual onlooker. “One last nod to the City of Toledo, we included the "Laborare est Orare" from the seal of the City as our jocktag underneath the neckline on the back of the jersey. We have that in our crest, and thought it was fitting. The phrase loosely translates, "To work is to pray", which I think does a great job highlighting the working spirit of the City of Toledo.”
Mercer is just as thrilled with the primary design component on the front of the kit - the sash. “I love jerseys with this design feature, with iconic teams such as Peru's national team, River Plate, Vasco da Gama, etc jumping to mind. People unfamiliar with NW Ohio, will not know that the Maumee River cuts through the area in the same direction, so I thought it was fitting to represent that on our jerseys.”
These kits are a great reminder that having a great design for a kit doesn’t mean you have to be some big-money operation. The cost of design, with the right designer, doesn’t have to dictate the quality of the result. Club Toledo is a club in a regional league, playing well in their level, and now have a kit that reflects a higher standard than a stock kit that so many regional clubs settle for.