Well, here we are.
Once again let me point out a few things before we get to the kits:
Sporting Kansas City 2013 Third
Imagine my shock when a shirt I absolutely love finished last on this list. After some thought I think there are two reasons for this, one general and one specific. Generally speaking, I think the fact that this kit finished last is a testament to just how strong the competition has become (and how good some other SKC kits are- stay tuned!) in MLS over the past three or so years. Specifically speaking, I think the problem there is that black was the wrong choice. An argyle motif in light blue/dark blue (or the reverse, and maybe with white as the tertiary color) would have been a much stronger choice for this shirt and I hope that maybe SKC will give that a go at some point in the future. Still, it’s a looker!
Sporting Kansas City 2015 Away
Look, another SKC shirt! This is a kit that slaps you right in the face with all kinds of “classy.” The windowpane design is understated, but detailed. If you look closely you can see that the “lines” are actually very small hash marks. Still, I think it is the overall subtlety of the design that allows it to be worn with fairly traditional shorts and socks without clashing with them. The detail that makes this shirt for me, though, is the navy border around the bottom. It not only balances the darker trim and detailing at the top of the shirt, but also ensures that even if it becomes untucked (or is never tucked in to begin with!) it still presents a neat appearance. In the best possible way this is a “dress shirt” modified for life on the pitch.
New England Revolution 2014 Home
I will accept any criticism you wish to send my way for this choice. This shirt/kit is probably more of a “top 20” than a “top 10” choice, but put in context I think it makes sense. What is that context? The fact that of all the MLS clubs- especially of all the original clubs- the New England Revolution stand tall when it comes to kit mediocrity. To me that’s almost worse than a history of terrible kits, which is not to say the Revs haven’t produced a few stinkers over the last two decades, but mostly they just work kits that said, “We don’t try very hard.” This one isn’t ground breaking, but it gets all of the details right. Oh, and those socks make me swoon…and then become enraged because the club doesn’t sell them to supporters!
New England Revolution 2015 Away
Uh oh. Two Revolution kits in a row?! Just like the previous kit, this year’s away kit makes the list- in part- on the basis of “context” as well. There are two basic factors at play here. First, this may be the first time in New England’s kit history that they have made any attempt to even come close to “thinking outside the box.” If my memory is correct, this is only the second time since 1996 that an away kit has not been white with blue and red trim, and the first time they’ve had any kit that was not based on “red, white, and blue.” Second, and perhaps more importantly, this kit catches the club’s look up with the mindset of the supporters. For years those in “The Fort” have flown the Revolutionary War era “Flag of New England” at matches and last year a small version appeared on the back of the home kit. This year, somebody, finally, figured out you could base a whole kit on said flag and, voila!
Chicago Fire 2005 Third
Much like the Revolution, for a good chunk of their history the Fire just didn’t try very hard. Red at home, white away, yawn. They’ve branched out stylistically in recent seasons (with generally poor results it must be said), but there was a brief moment a decade ago where it looked like they might have figured things out. This shirt (the above example was worn for a special match and is a bit cluttered with logos) was worn with plain white shorts and plain light blue socks and is based on the colors and design of the city’s flag- seen opposite the Fire logo. For my money this full kit would not have looked out of place on a club in Germany, France, or Italy (they’re playing AC Milan in the picture I linked to) during the time period in question and as you can see from the dates of the other kits on this list, it was better than pretty much anything in MLS at the time as well.
Philadelphia Union 2013 Third
This kit- which pays tribute to the dominance of Bethlehem Steel F.C. in American soccer during the first third of the 1900s- would probably rank even higher up the list if I had not been traumatized by living in Bethlehem, PA for two years in the early 1990s. This is one of the first faux-back/tribute kits to appear in MLS and I appreciate that, especially from a club that in its young history has produced kits that run the gamut from disastrous to mediocre. It would look better without the sponsor logo, but I like that they have the corporate logo from “The Steel” below the collar on the back and I like that they color-matched the club crest so as not to detract from the over all look of the shirt. I think they should have worn these too, for accuracy’s sake of course.
Portland Timbers 2015 Home
I really wanted to hate this shirt, but I don’t. I just can’t. Even the knowledge that it will be worn by neck-bearded, fixie-riding, hipsters isn’t enough to keep me from recognizing the good stuff going on here. It’s a rare example of a club going for the “retro” look by harkening back to one of their former kits and pretty much nailing it without making you think of everything else that when along with the time period: sideburns, flared collars, Chuck Norris movies, El Caminos, etc.. I think what won me over in the end was the face that they echoed the motif and colors of the large chevrons on the shirt on the socks.
Columbus Crew 2012 Away
A lot of people aren’t going to like this choice, but let me tell something: if this kit had the new Columbus Crew SC crest on it instead of the “hard hat” one I might have chosen it has the best MLS kit ever! My love for this kit (white shorts and black socks) is so innate that it’s kind of a struggle to explain why I love it. I love the “yoke” template and that there’s a lot of bold color and design going on in it. I like that the club sponsor (an old-fashioned shaving cream!) is place higher than one might normally expect. I think, strangely enough, that one of the reasons I like this shirt is that it looks like something a pre-NFL gridiron football team might have worn- the kind that wore leather helmets and had lost of players who were missing a front tooth or two. Sorry, I’m rambling. I just love it.
D.C. United 2008 Home
This is about as close as a club could come to playing in a tuxedo and I find it kind of amusing that a kit that is essentially perfect still only finds itself in third place on my list! The beauty of this kit is that there is nothing “extra” on it- anywhere. It’s black with white detailing, a tiny bit of red on the crest and on the hem of the sleeves (more noticeable on the long-sleeved version), the sponsor logo fits seamlessly into the look of the shirt. In previous and future seasons the club tried a little too hard to get more red and more detailing onto the kits and later sponsor logos just didn’t work like the VW one did, but for a few seasons starting in 2008 they were perfect.
Sporting Kansas City 2014 Away
Not only could this kit have easily finished in first place, it also could have gone horribly wrong. I suspect that Sporting might actually have hired a graphic designer, artist, or some other kind of professional to create this beauty because somebody knew what they were doing. First off, it’s a bold design, but one that is kept in check because they’ve used tones (rather than pairing one of the blues with white), the “hoops” are, in fact, not. They only appear on the front (the back is solid blue) and that prevents the top from becoming overly “busy”. The shorts are plain, which allows the fully-hooped socks to be worn without the “viewer” feeling overwhelmed. This is, as the kids say, “next level” stuff.
Portland Timbers 2010 Away
Why did this kit win out over the previous SKC kit? Simple, Portland did this on their first try- this was their debut away kit in MLS! It’s beautiful, and while I’m usually not one for “marketing speak,” I chose the picture above deliberately because it is clear that a lot of thought clearly went into it, those thoughts were well-executed, and perhaps most importantly, they didn’t take it too far. The design elements don’t overwhelm the overall look of the kit. The shorts are white with red detailing and the socks are the opposite. All of the “business” is done on the shirt and even the Alaska Airlines word mark fits just fine with the look of the shirt.
Well, that’s it, I hope I haven’t ruffled too many feathers! I’d love to hear your thoughts and I’d like to leave you with one as well. I’d like to single out Sporting Kansas City, Portland Timbers, and, I’m a bit shocked to say it, the New England Revolution (though to a more recent, and lesser, extent) for really trying to improve the overall look of their kits. There have been some “misses” (I still don’t know what I think of that white and silver SKC kit…), but not many. I hope the examples these clubs are putting forth will inspire other clubs to, at the very least, not settle for boring going forward!