MLS teams mostly haven’t released their 2020 uniform designs yet. A certain section of fans have clamored for the league and Adidas to put the latest jerseys out in time for the holidays, but those concerns have apparently fallen on deaf ears. That is a bit of a wonder, considering how much MLS seems to value its merchandising sales.
We’ve seen many of the uniforms already via leaks, and as Twitter will for the most part tell you, they are bad. Very bad. Not bad in an interesting way, either. They’re basic, templated, and lazy, and they allow teams to take on precious little identity for themselves.
You’ll see those three shoulder stripes on a number of MLS uniforms this year. They are reportedly intended as a tribute to the league’s 25th anniversary. Leaked Philadelphia Union kits, from FIFA Mobile, also show the prominent stripes on the shoulder.
This comes after a year in which a number of uniforms featured similar sublimated stripes on the jerseys. Minnesota United, who count a beautiful light blue as one of their colors, really wore this kit last year:
I see barely any light blue there. The dark gray is ugly, and the lighter gray acts as an out-of-place centerpiece color. It doesn’t necessarily have to have a light blue base, but you can’t toss varying shades of gray on a palette as an excuse for not using your prettiest color.
Change not always for the better
There was a time a few years ago that Adidas produced more acceptable uniforms. But soccer teams unveil at least one new uniform every year, primarily in the interest of garnering fresh merchandising dollars. That construct, releasing a new kit every year, dilutes the quality of uniforms; if you produce a good-looking set one year, you’ll have to find a way to change it a year or two later. Downgrades are inevitable. It’s hard to cultivate a consistent visual identity, particularly for MLS teams, who don’t have the tradition or history of European clubs.
Atlanta United, for example, wore a beautiful Five Stripe kit in their first two years of existence, inspiring a club nickname. But it enjoyed only two years of existence, and they looked considerably worse in a weird, pseudo-AC Milan uniform in 2019. The only reason they departed from what worked was merchandising dollars. It’s an unfortunate reality.
Adidas and MLS could offset the need to constantly produce new kits by, you know, producing good kits. You don’t have to change things drastically. Just make solid, unique designs that highlight the club’s colors and set the team apart. Rarely has Adidas met those objectives. Templated formats eliminate originality and uniqueness, and shutter visual identities. The great color schemes that some teams have are reduced to a tiny element of their cumulative art. Plain white T-shirts and mono looks are recipes for boring standardization.
Games can be less fun and interesting to watch as a result of this design malpractice. Uniform matchups are boilerplate and familiar. All-white vs. all-dark is a constant look, and sometimes you can’t even tell which teams you’re watching immediately. It is really not that hard for Adidas to have teams wear, say, different color shorts from jerseys.
We can only hope that MLS will move away from the Adidas contract when it expires. Until then, teams should be allowed to take greater control in the design process, to prevent templates and plain kits.
People like good colors. Use them! We’ll give it to the powers that be in a language they’ll understand: Good-looking jerseys will sell more.