the tanner ba'

All-Time MLS Kits, Part One: The Worst


This topic is, admittedly, the lowest of the “low-hanging fruit” and I am disappointed in myself that it took literally years for me to tackle it, but tackle it I shall.  Today I begin with the worst Major League Soccer kits (mostly shirts, I’ll explain in a moment) since the league’s inception in 1996.  Before I begin, however, a few helpful notes…

  • These are my opinions and my opinions alone.
  • I am going to contradict myself, I’ll try to explain why/how it happened, but in the end, get over it.
  • My criteria constantly shifted while I was evaluating these kits- I make no apologies for that.
  • If a club wore the same kit for several years I went with the year it debuted.
  • If there was a tie between the awfulness of two kits, I let the shorts and socks be the tie-breaker.
  • I couldn’t really argue with any positions being changed within the first five and the last five.
  • Your club may not appear on this list or the “best” list tomorrow- you can decide what that means.
  • I start with the “least worst” and work my way up(?) to “worst…worst”


2012 Seattle Sounders Third

Do you remember that day in your high school chemistry class when the teacher showed you how to use your hand to “waft” the odor from a test tube towards your nose rather than sticking your nose directly over the test tube and risking nasty chemical burns, nausea, etc.?  This kit is the visual equivalent of not listening to your teacher’s instructions.  The lighting in the picture above is very kind to this kit, so let me assure you that looking at it in person is like pouring vinegar into your nose- it’s not something you want to do.  You’re probably dying of suspense by this point, so I’ll tell you that the colors you are looking at- and will never be able to unsee-  are “super cyan” and “electric yellow.”


2012 Vancouver Whitecaps Third

Aesthetically speaking there have been worse shirts worn by MLS clubs, so this shirt makes the list more on a “they should have known better” basis than being one of the ten ugliest tops worn by an MLS side.  It is ugly though.  Brown kits just don’t turn out well, ever.  Ask Coventry City.  You can have brown in your kit as both 1860 Munich and Bayern Munich proved in recent years with their killer lederhosen kits, but all brown?  No.  Truth be told, this kit deserves to be on this list just for the way in which the Whitecaps p.r. department described it, “unique land full of deep roots and the high reaching arms of the Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar, Mountain Hemlock, Pacific Dogwood….”  Oof.


1996 Dallas Burn Away

This is probably the kind of shirt I would have designed as a twelve year old when I was taking a break from drawing physically improbable “dream cars” on graph paper.  Nothing about it is horribly “wrong,” but nothing is even close to “right” either.  There’s “overkill”:  not just stripes, but color-blocking and patterned borders as well.  If one of those is good three must be three times as good, right?  And what in the world is going on with the logos?  There’s a small one where the club crest would normally reside and then another HUGE one in the center of the shirt?  Why not just put the squad number in the middle?  Or a sponsor name.  Or the club name?  Yeesh.  Major League Soccer’s debut season had a lot of things going for it, but kits were not one of them.  This is the first of four 1996 kits to make this list.

Eddie Lewis Clash

1996 San Jose Clash Away

Eddie Lewis’ expression says it all- and this was the better of the two shirts San Jose wore in their inaugural season.  Think about that for a minute.  If you include logos, patches, etc. there are at least eight colors represented on the shirt.  That’s probably a few too many.  Stepping away from the shirt for a moment, what’s going on with the shorts?!  I didn’t realize that anyone other than middle school basketball teams work “dazzle” fabric!   On a more positive note, this may be the only kit that has ever been described by the club name, and that name is right there in big letters on the front of the shirt.  Save up some hate for the Clash’s 1996 away kit, it’s a doozy!


1998 New England Revolution Third

There is a problem when a shirt you make for a club looks like what you’d expect an off-brand knock-off of the real shirt to look like.  I don’t mean it looks like a “replica kit,” I mean it looks like the kind of shirt they’d be selling on the sidewalk a block away from the stadium for $10 and that would melt if you put it in the dryer.  It looks like the kind of shirt your parents would buy you and tell you, “It’s just like the real one, nobody will know the difference!”  But they would know, and you would know that they knew.  I can’t imagine how the Revolution’s foreign players felt about wearing this patriotic monstrosity…  I’m pretty sure the Revs finished last in 1998, so, you know, karma.  If there is a “silver lining” to this shirt it is that its existence kept both the clubs 1996 kits from making the list.

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1996 San Jose Clash Away

What am I even looking at?!  This is the best picture I could find of this shirt, but in this picture it’s being worn with the black home shorts rather than the green away shorts (which match the dark green in the shirt).  What you can’t see in this picture- and hold on to something if you’re not already- is the socks that went with this kit (home and away), which are black and white “bumble bee” socks.  What?  Why?  Also, three colors on the shirt and two more between the shorts and socks aren’t enough, so let’s put our logo and word mark on the shirt in red-orange!  It makes the crappy L.A. Galaxy kit in this picture look downright handsome by comparison.


2013 L.A. Galaxy Third

This is what happens when you let your club’s supporters design your new third kit and you receive 8,000 entries.  I have a hard time believing that there wasn’t at least one that was better than this disaster.  The kit is black from head to toe because, of course it is, and the colors on it combine the colors of the Mexican flag (the Galaxy have a large Mexican-American fan base and these colors also appeared on their inaugural kit… sort of.  See below.) AND the club’s current gold and blue colors- note the crest hasn’t been color-matched to the rest of the kit.  If you want to have a good laugh do a Google Image Search for this kit and take a look at the promotional pictures featuring Robbie Keane.  He looks like he wants to punch somebody in every one of them.

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1996 L.A. Galaxy Home

How about another L.A. Galaxy shirt, specifically the one that the previous shirt was trying to recall?  I can only assume from Cobi’s expression that the shirt smelled as bad as it looked.  There’s too much going on here, too many shapes, colors, angles, curves, etc..  Also, it’s your first season and your trying to make a good impression- you can’t get the shades of yellow/gold in the shirt to match the club logo/crest?  At least the Budweiser logo blends in nicely.  If you’re interested, the shorts and socks were the same darker (it’s navy-ish) color that makes up the right half of the shirt, so that helped…a little.


1998 Kansas City Wizards Home

Remember at the beginning of this post when I said that in the case of a tie I would use the complete kits as the tie-breakers?  That’s what is happening here and in the final (below) kit.  The shirts are bad enough on their own, but when you see the full kit…yikes.  So, in this case it’s bad enough that the Wizards when with the “Charlie Brown on mescaline” shirts, but then to repeat it on one leg of the shorts too?  Not cool.  In the picture it even looks like Alexi is asking, “Why?”  Speaking of which, I know a lot of people don’t like Mr. Lalas (I personally have no opinion on him either way) but if there’s an MLS player who has repeatedly gotten the short end of the kit “stick,” it’s him.  He also had to wear the denim kits when he was with the USMNT.  Poor guy.


1997 Kansas City Wizards Third

This kit is everything the previous kit was, but worse.  So much worse.  It reminds me of a vest with a horrible shirt underneath it.  Kind of like this.  But, as with the other K.C. kit on this list, it is the shorts and socks that put it over the top.  As you can see in this picture of Mark Chung, the left leg of the shorts for this kit matched the sleeves.  In this picture Chung is wearing light blue socks with rainbow trim, but the club also had the option of wearing black socks with rainbow trim, you know, if they were feeling a bit more formal.  Seriously, if you’re going to go “ugly,” go UGLY.  For example, click through and get an eyeful of Cork City F.C.’s 1989-1990 kit.

In closing, before you fire off an angry tweet, email, or comment keep in mind that just because your club tops the “worst” list, or appears more than once on it, that doesn’t mean the same thing can’t happen to your club on the “best” list tomorrow!


4 comments on “All-Time MLS Kits, Part One: The Worst

  1. Sculptor?!?
    July 19, 2015

    Wow. That was an exceptional collection of cringe-worthiness. My face hurts from all the wincing now.

  2. Francis
    July 20, 2015

    Question, has there ever been a good MLS kit? From what I have seen the answer is NO.

    • KC Gunner
      July 20, 2015

      quite a few actually! see the newest post!
      and KC deserved both entries on this list and what i anticipate will be a couple entries on the Best of MLS Kits list.
      I still don’t understand the large contingent of KC supporters that want to see the rainbow (or “Charlie Brown on Mescaline”) kits given the homage treatment in a future 3rd kit.

  3. D
    August 16, 2015

    Robbie Keane was in LA third kit, not Roy – confused me for a minute there

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