Soccer is "very different from, say, football or baseball when you have one team and one team only. In soccer, you root for club – and country," said the former marketing executive for the National Football League and Madison Square Garden, who took over as MLS CMO in January 2012.
That nationalist angle will become increasingly important this year as the World Cup approaches.
The campaign, Mr. Handler said, will hammer home the theme that soccer fans can watch many of the American and international stars of this summer's World Cup -- such as Clint Dempsey of the Seattle Sounders and Landon Donovan of the Los Angeles Galaxy -- at MLS games this spring.
A new print ad featuring MLS stars will declare: "March to Brazil. It all starts here. MLS. For Club and Country." There will be a billboard in Times Square. And a heavy dose of digital advertising on MLSSoccer.com and YouTube, plus sports sites such as SB Nation and Bleacher Report.
The new tag succeeds the "This is Soccer" slogan that MLS used for the 2013 season. Across social media channels, the league will employ the hashtag: #ItAllStartsHere.
MLS teams have been spending a lot of money signing big name players since the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Take the number of MLS players expected to make the U.S. men's national team. In South Africa, MLS supplied four players to Team USA. Four years later, they expect to send over a dozen to make Team USA. The new campaign was created in-house .
"This linkage between the U.S. men's national team and MLS is something we're really excited about," said Mr. Handler. "The message we're sending out there all season long is the best way to tap the excitement and anticipation for World Cup is to follow Major League Soccer. It's essentially happening right in your backyards. After Sochi, after the Academy Awards, the big event on the horizon that will captivate the whole world is World Cup in Brazil. And we will be a very core part of that storyline."
"For Club and Country" is likely to be seen as an improvement over some of MLS's past ad campaigns such as "This Stuff Kicks" in 1997 and "MLS Strike Force" in 2001.
Meanwhile, the league is picking up new corporate sponsors for the season. MLS is expected to announce a sponsorship deal later this week with Kraft Beverages, which markets brands such as Capri Sun, Kool-Aid, Country Time
On Monday, MLS and Chipotle Mexican Grill announced that Chipotle has become the official fast-casual Mexican restaurant of MLS and a dozen MLS Clubs.
Mark Crumpacker, Chipotle CMO, said the deal will be the restaurant chain's largest sports sponsorship deal. "This partnership with MLS will allow us to further engage consumers in a sport we have long supported through grassroots efforts," he said in a statement.