MLS caused quite a stir yesterday when it was reported that they'd require Minnesota United to change their name upon entrance into the league. The league is worried that three different clubs (Atlanta, Minnesota, and D.C.) donning the "United" nickname would cause confusion.
One popular theory that was raised among supporters is that NASL in fact owns the Minnesota United name, which would make it difficult for MLS to acquire. However, a source within the NASL front office tells Dirty South Soccer that is not the case at all.
"Because NASL owners are able to run their clubs independently, outside of the single entity structure, the league does not own the rights to a club name," the source told DSS.
This official document from the United States Patent and Trademark Office confirms that the name is individually owned.
This means that Major League Soccer's confusion excuse seems to be the one that holds any water. It's a flimsy excuse and one that many blame Atlanta United and Arthur Blank for. This story hints that Blank used some kind of influence to block the name from being used. Whatever the true reason is, there doesn't appear to be any legal technicality against using Minnesota United. The reported decision is all based on the desire of the league to not have three different clubs named United.