skip navigation

Maine's first professional soccer club to be known as Portland Hearts of Pine

By Staff, 04/27/24, 11:15AM EDT


Local community input inspires bold and authentic branding for Portland Hearts of Pine

Local community input inspires bold and authentic branding for Portland Hearts of Pine | Image Credit: Portland Hearts of Pine

PORTLAND, Maine – In front of a crowd of more than 1,000 soccer fans, players, community members and policymakers, Maine's first professional soccer club announced its team colors and brand identity ahead of its planned inaugural 2025 season. Inspired by Maine pride and symbolism, the team will be called Portland Hearts of Pine, or Hearts for short, a distinctive name that was developed in partnership with local supporters and one that has ties to global soccer culture. The club crest features an iconic Maine pine tree set against deep blue water, basking in the glow of a unique creation, the Dirigo Heart, which re-imagines Maine’s famous Dirigo Star in the spirit of Portland’s beloved Valentine's Day Bandit.

"I congratulate Maine's new professional soccer team, Hearts of Pine, on unveiling the name that Maine people will cheer on for years to come," said Maine Governor Janet Mills. "In celebration of this exciting milestone and in honor of passionate soccer fans across the state, I have proclaimed today as the first-ever Maine Day of Soccer. I look forward to joining Maine people to cheer on Hearts of Pine when they take to the field next year."

Hearts of Pine's branding was born from authentic collaboration across the state over nearly five years. Club founders held dozens of focus groups, town halls and soccer events with a range of audiences, including members of local business, soccer and New Mainer communities. Informed by the insights, the grassroots-inspired brand was created by club founder and Chief Community Officer Gabe Hoffman-Johnson and global soccer industry insider Burke Cherrie, a Portland resident. They were supported by Maine College of Art & Design graduate Hugh McCormick, who designed the branding system, as well as dozens of other local creatives throughout the process.

"Everything we do is community-built and we knew our biggest challenge was to represent the diverse communities and perspectives across Maine," said Hoffman-Johnson. "Across all corners of the state, what we heard from every community was just how proud they are to be a Mainer, and especially how much love they have for our state's natural beauty. That's what links us all, it's our heritage, and those are the symbols we leaned into to represent this club."

With community feedback, Maine's moniker as the Pine Tree State, and Portland's Forest City nickname in mind, the team found inspiration in the heartwood of the pine, the center of the tree which provides the strength and durability to grow and thrive in all elements and seasons, a trait mirrored in the resilience of Mainers themselves.

"It was an interesting challenge to take an icon like the Eastern White Pine, used so often to symbolize our state, and do something different to find new meaning," said Burke Cherrie, who has worked for a decade in soccer media with brands like adidas, the U.S. Soccer Federation and global clubs including Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC. "As we explored the heartwood concept, we started to see hearts everywhere, thanks to Portland's unique Valentine’s Day Bandit tradition, in the love of the sport across the state, and of course in the character of Mainers themselves. We believe Hearts of Pine is a brand that represents all of us."

"We love the crest and can't wait to wear it proudly. We've supported this movement from day one and now we have the badge of honor that unites us," said Donald Thibodeau and Mitchell Ketchen of Dirigo Union, an independent supporters group for that was founded in 2020.

In addition to the representations of Maine's natural beauty and the club’s unique Dirigo Heart symbol, the team found further inspiration in history and tradition. The custom typography is based on the historic Portland Co. building, a nod to Maine's proud working waterfront, and the scroll celebrates Maine's literary contributions. The Hearts nickname also draws upon global soccer traditions, as it is shared by esteemed clubs such as Scotland's Heart of Midlothian FC and Ghana's Accra Hearts of Oak SC.

The club motto is ‘Lead with Your Heart,’ putting a new spin on Maine's motto ‘Dirigo,’ meaning ‘I Lead’ in Latin. "Leading with your heart is what drove the founding of this club, and is creating opportunity and energy in the statewide community," said Hoffman-Johnson. "We believe in the power of soccer, the world's universal language, to create positive change for individuals, families, communities and the world. As part of building an elite professional club that reflects the character of the City of Portland, the State of Maine and all of its communities, we want to take social responsibility to the next level and set a new benchmark for community-minded professional clubs in America."

"To watch the community organically build around this effort has been incredible," said second-term Portland City Councilor, April Fournier. "Whenever this team appeared on a city council agenda, young people would show up at City Hall to speak. This team has positively activated civic engagement among Maine youth, and it is very exciting and inspiring to see."

In September 2023, the United Soccer League formally announced that Portland, Maine would become home to an expansion franchise that will play in USL League One, and Portland City Council officially approved the club's lease agreement to make historic Fitzpatrick Stadium their home two months later.

The club recently made three key acquisitions by hiring President and Chief Business Officer Kevin Schohl, a Harvard graduate with a successful career in sports management; a Director of Operations, Hannah Sirois, formerly of the Maine Celtics, and a VP of Marketing; and Brian Wold, formerly of Sabre Yachts. The trio will focus on building out the club infrastructure, developing corporate partnerships, renovating Fitzpatrick Stadium and expanding the team with more hires, including the technical staff and players later this year.

"This is a great day for soccer in Maine but this is just the beginning of what's to come. We hope the club will inspire not just soccer fans and players, but everyone who has their heart in Maine," said Schohl.

To learn more about Portland Hearts of Pine, visit the club's website and follow the club on InstagramX (Twitter) and Facebook.

Follow USL League One

Most Recent USL League One News

Most Read USL League One News

USL League One News