Monday, August 16, 2010

Ranking Major League Soccer uniforms

It's been a while since I've done one of these. Unlike most soccer leagues around the world, all MLS clubs have the same kit manufacturer: Adidas. As we saw in my World Cup kit ranking, Adidas on average makes some of the best uniforms around. Some people may disagree, but I think this carries over to MLS having some of the best club jerseys in the world. The designs are clean, and the integration of shirt sponsors is much more fluid than on the kits of the best league in the world, the English Premier League.

NOTE: Some people can't seem to figure it out, but the phrases in parentheses are in fact hyperlinks to teams' away and third kits, which are not pictured in this article.

16. New England Revolution (white away kit)

"The Revs" have one of the worst names in soccer, and it carries over to their shirt. The soccer-ball-U.S.-flag crest doesn't signify anything about the team other than "we're American." I know they don't have a sponsor yet, but that doesn't mean they need "REVOLUTION" emblazoned across the chest in cheesy font--if the crest were better, people would recognize it as the team's logo and wouldn't need a redundant lettermark beneath it. I respect the whole "trying to give a city's sports teams a cohesive color scheme" of picking navy, red, and gray, but the gray on the shoulders just looks out of place and ruins the shirt design as a whole. The white away kit, devoid of these gray shoulder blobs, looks much cleaner.

15. Columbus Crew (black away kit)

It's a shame the Crew's spectacular pinstriped away kit isn't the home shirt. Instead we've got this eye-searing yellow with arbitrary noodle piping. The yellow wouldn't be as bad if it wasn't 100% yellow and there was more black to contrast it with. As it is, the uniform just reminds me of Barcelona's away kit from two years ago. There's a reason it was only an away kit. Back to Columbus, once again we've got the curse of the horrible team name leading to a horrible crest. I appreciate their homage to blue-collar workers, but why that image? It's like male models from a women's hunk calendar. The Glidden sponsorship could look better, but it could also look much worse, and gets bonus points for being an Ohio-based company.

14. Toronto FC (gray away kit)

Finally, a team with a simple name and a good crest. Toronto FC is going after a clean look, but the shirt design is muddied up in the same way New England's is: with random gray areas on the shoulders. The Bank of Montreal sponsorship (good that it's a Canadian company, but will be strange when Montreal joins MLS) would look better if they picked either the "BMO" lettermark or the circular logo, but having both makes the shirt too busy. Hmm... a team called "[city name] FC" nicknamed the Reds with an Adidas kit featuring both its sponsor's lettermark and logo... sounds like Liverpool and their kit. Perhaps TFC can learn something from LFC's sharply designed and vastly superior jersey. Right now it just looks bland.

13. Houston Dynamo (white away kit)

I wish it could've been Dynamo Houston--reminiscent of Eastern European clubs like Dynamo Moscow--or even better, its original chosen name of Houston 1836--similar to German clubs like Schalke 04. But Houston Dynamo is a decent name. Their choice of orange as their primary color is bold, but the "Space City Blue" or "Luv Ya Blue" (depending on what official source you read it from) makes the orange much less awesome. You should never contrast a light color with another light color. Combined with the very feminine swoopy stripe down the right side, this makes the whole kit not nearly as powerful as it could be. As much as I dislike the blue, I wish they would wear a blue away kit like the MLS All-Star jerseys instead of white, which adds a third light color to the mix. The Texas-based Amigo Energy sponsor is integrated well.

12. Chicago Fire (white away kit)

The Fire is another dumb name, but it actually makes for a pretty cool crest. Chicago has tried to modernize their shirt. Certain changes like the subtle lettering around the collar work, but other changes don't: turning the iconic white horizontal stripe into a strange band-aid looking thing and adding random stripes on the stomach that just make me think of the French 2010 World Cup jersey--I don't think that's a connection they want to be making. Strangely, the Best Buy logo on the chest looks great; good thing they decided not to use their price tag logo. Man, would that have been an ugly sponsor. The whole kit looks very sleek, but isn't nearly as flattering on more "portly" Chicago fans wearing the replicas.

11. Kansas City Wizards (white away kit)

A childish name, a boring crest that looks like the front of a train, and a redundant "KANSAS CITY" across the chest. There are a few redeeming factors, though. Kansas City is the only MLS club to wear bright blue at home, which is a breath of fresh air. The stiff collar is very wizardy, which I enjoy. The subtle yellow detailing is nice. And the weird piping bands around the sleeves, seen in many Adidas jerseys, looks great here. Luckily for the Wizards (who started out as the even more horrendous "Wiz" in 1996), there's rumor of a name change in the works for next season. I'll be writing about this in an upcoming blog post in the next couple weeks.

10. Colorado Rapids (blue away kit)

Colorado doesn't have a sponsor, and I appreciate that instead of putting a redundant "RAPIDS" on the front, they keep it blank. As a result, though, it's a pretty boring shirt that hasn't changed since last season. With the collar, it almost looks like just a regular polo shirt someone would wear off the field. But the great maroon color (consistent with other Colorado sports teams) offset by a nearly-as-cool blue away jersey (thank god it's not white) redeems the Rapids, along with their smartly-designed crest. It'll be interesting to see how the club incorporates a sponsor in the next couple years.

9. Chivas USA (blue away kit)

Chivas USA is one of the few MLS teams whose away kit is a completely different design from the home kit, and I like that a lot. The blue shirt may be fairly plain in comparison to the striped home shirt, but that's okay with me. The shirt's a step down from last year, though. The arbitrary noodle piping I mentioned with Columbus are present here, ruining a great striped design. Extra, a Mexican sponsor added right before the season began, doesn't look quite as classy as Chivas' previous sponsor, Comex. Strangely enough, the shirts still look better than those of Chivas' Mexican parent club, C.D. Guadalajara.

8. San Jose Earthquakes (white away kit & blue third kit)

Despite having possibly the worst name in all of soccer, the Quakes have a pretty good jersey. Bright blue on jet black is a striking color combination we don't see very often. The white piping around the shoulders are something we've started to see a lot on Adidas jerseys, but I think it works here better than anywhere else. Going back to my "I wish more teams wore non-white away kits" motif, I'd love San Jose to replace their unremarkable white away shirts with the incredible bright blue third jerseys they revealed a couple months ago.

7. New York Red Bulls (blue away kit)

The Red Bulls get a lot of crap for being named after an energy drink. But there are plenty of historic teams around the world built around sponsors (see: 106-year-old German club Bayer Leverkusen). And if you ignore the fact that it's an energy drink, it's a badass logo and a pretty awesome name--I just wish they'd go more by their formal name, Red Bull New York, instead of the colloquial New York Red Bulls. It also seems like Red Bull overkill that there's a giant logo on the chest-stomach as well as the badge on the left breast. You'd think you could just get rid of the little badge. Both their home and road jerseys have unique things going on with the collar.

6. Seattle Sounders FC (blue away kit & "electricity" third kit)

Another kit I like that everyone else constantly complains about. I seem to be the only non-Sounders supporter who actually enjoys the distinctive "rave green" home shirt. The crest is brilliant, and the green matches both the local business sponsor of Xbox 360 and fits in with other Seattle sports teams. The blue away shirt is much less jarring but another great shirt. However, I will not defend the retina-searing highlighter-vomit third kit. What were they trying to do there? If they were going after the bright green vibe, they already covered that ground to a reasonable measure with the green home shirt. Oh well.

5. FC Dallas (blue away kit)

I've whined multiple times on this list about teams without sponsors who put their club name across the chest to fill the space even though the crest makes it redundant. FC Dallas is the exception to the rule. It'll be nice to see a real sponsor replace "FC DALLAS" on the chest, but for now, the simple font makes it look great. And not enough teams wear hoops. They make this shirt stand out among a sea of solid colors. The blue away shirt is equally stunning, and makes it one of the few MLS clubs whose road jerseys are just as good as the home jerseys. FCD's shirts are also an exception to the rule in that I usually don't like color-on-color (i.e. blue on red with no white buffer) but on both of Dallas' kits, it looks great. Good thing they're not called the "Dallas Burn" anymore.

4. Real Salt Lake (white away kit & yellow third kit)

Dumb Real Madrid-ripoff name aside, Real Salt Lake has everything going for it. Probably the best color scheme in MLS, a cool-looking sponsor from Utah (XanGo), and a regal crest. The gold trim on the maroon with blue makes the whole kit look more refined and mature than many other MLS jerseys. By contrast, the team just started wearing mostly yellow third jerseys that immediately smack you in the eyeball. As with the Columbus Crew, I wouldn't like these as home kits, but they're not. They're thirds. And as with San Jose, I wish these brightly-colored shirts would replace the boring white away kits.

3. Philadelphia Union (gold away kit)

For a first-year club, Philly has got its uniforms on lock. A fantastic color scheme harkening back to the Philadelphia flag, the reference solidified with the big stripe down the center of the shirt. The uniform's main colors of navy and gold are complimented by a fantastic subtle light blue only seen on the badge and the piping across the chest. Since they're new, Philly doesn't have a sponsor, but they smartly decide not to put "UNION" on the chest, instead becoming the only MLS club with its crest in the center of the shirt instead of on the left. The crest, by the way, is the best in the league. It's a tribute to the Gadsden Flag. The gold away kit is also stunning--I'm not sure there's any other soccer team with this shade of brownish gold as the predominant color.

2. Los Angeles Galaxy (blue away kit)

The L.A. Galaxy have the douchiest name in MLS, but their kit is one of the greatest. No longer is it merely a Real Madrid clone. The blue along the shoulders and the yellow details on the piping and collar make this an incredibly smart, clean white shirt. The crest matches the rest of the look, and the LA-based Herbalife sponsor (which sounds like it should have something to do with medical marijuana) fits the kit. As a fan of Tottenham, who also wears white-with-blue and is rumored to be switching manufacturers from Puma to Adidas next year, I hope they can take a page from LA's book. The away kit is pretty much what you'd expect, and it looks good in its simplicity.

1. D.C. United (white away kit)

It's a pity D.C. United is having such a dismal season, because these are virtually the perfect uniforms. Many non-DCU fans trash our kits: "Such ugly black!" Hey, we were the first team to wear black, and we're still one of only two teams in the league to wear the color. Anyway, the jet black looks fantastic, especially with the new red detailing in the piping and the collar (I particularly love the collar). The Volkswagen sponsor is one of the few corporate logos I think legitimately adds to the artistry of it all--the shirt looks better than it did before the sponsorship. It's a simple yet iconic logo without the company's lettermark. Volkswagen adapted the design's colors to fit DCU's needs: black & white. Even VW's hometown club, Wolfsburg, didn't get the VW logo's blue background removed for their Adidas kits. Only two things could make D.C. United's kits more perfect. Change the four stars above the crest from too-shiny to matte, and make the shoulder stipes on the white away shirt red (like they were a decade ago) instead of black, a reference to the D.C. flag. Otherwise, these are some of the best uniforms in the world.


  1. If you ask me, FC Dallas and the Wiz are underrated, and both will be better with good sponsors. FC Dallas should be #1, and I also like the 3rd kit for RSL.

    A good list overall, even with the homerism for DCU.

  2. Aside from the silly logo, Kansas City's home Jersey in Cobalt Blue is by far the most stunning of all the above.

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