I have been a soccer fan for many years. Since half of my family is English and lives in England, I have always been an England supporter and a supporter of Tottenham Hotspur (somewhat local team) and Reading (local team). A couple of years ago a friend suggested I should give MLS a chance. He informed me it was a growing league and had great potential for talent and was different from the previous professional soccer leagues in the US.
I decided to give it a chance. However, one of the things I have noticed about MLS is the lack of creativity and imagination in the development of their uniforms and badges. To be honest many of their uniforms and team insignia are just dull and boring and inspire little or no confidence. MLS uniforms have a cookie cutter feel to them. In looking at MLS kit designs and team logos, I thought to myself “Is this the best they can do?” Selling a product is all about marketing, to ensure a successful product — in this case MLS. You want your product to be a success and pleasing to the consumer and MLS is lacking in that area. At the end of the day soccer and all professional sports are businesses that need and want to make money.
I don’t care what anyone says about soccer in this country, it struggles and struggles a lot. With a product that you know has problems you want it to look good. Overall the majority of the club uniforms and badges need creative thought. Adidas dominates the kits of MLS and that is a problem in itself. The MLS logo is boring, a shoe kicking a ball. MLS can do better than that. I think the wearing of the United States and Canadian flags on the uniforms in my view is cheap and tacky and really doesn’t have any value or importance in displaying them on the uniforms.
In my youth I played sports and I still do and there is a sense of pride when you are dressed well. You feel confident and proud in who you are and in your team. To give a better perspective on the subject. you can look to history for a wonderful example. In the early 17th century on the eve of the Thirty Years’ War in Europe, a military revolution was taking place. One of the developments to come from this revolution was the development of standard uniforms for soldiers. King Gustavus Adolphus II of Sweden began the practice of introducing standard uniforms in his army. Uniforms were being issued to the different regiments in the Swedish Army along with regimental insignia. This move had a very positive impact and was embraced by other nations in Europe as well. What was learned from this development is that soldiers felt better about themselves, their units and comrades. They performed better on the battlefield.
However, the same is not true for MLS. If you want to be successful, the look is a massive part of that success. Plus, it gives the supporters a sense of pride. The release of new kits in other leagues around the world is one of intense speculation and excitement but not really for MLS teams, I have not seen it. One of the biggest problems is Adidas has a monopoly on kit design for MLS uniforms and I think it would be better to have more competition from other manufacturers such as Nike, Puma, Under Armour or Umbro. It would allow for a greater selection of kit design from those manufacturers.
I think both Los Angeles Galaxy and Chivas USA have two of the best uniform designs in the league. LA’s team crest is simple but elegant, and has a polished look. The badge for Chivas is Old World in appearance and shows some creativity. The Chivas badge looks like a medieval crest and being a historian I find the use of the idea to be very appealing. I think both clubs have done well with using the Adidas template in creating a very fashionable and a sleek uniform, so it can be done. I give credit to the Los Angeles Galaxy in their third shirt design. It’s different than anything I have seen in the league. It may not be the best but it does show creativity.
I will say Kansas City has done a complete turnaround in their uniform and badge design from last season and someone in their marketing department was using their brain. For one the name change from Wizards to Sporting Kansas City was a massive improvement. Although they don’t have a major cooperate sponsor on their shirts. I will say the new colors and shirt designs are up there with the two Los Angeles teams. Their shorts are smart and very chic looking. I like the collar on the home shirt; it adds a classic traditional look. It is a very simple but attractive uniform, as is their new badge.
As a shirt design I do like the New York Red Bulls jersey. However, I think the team could have been more creative in the overall shirt design or pattern design. All the club really did was lift the Red Bull logo off the can and placed it on the shirt; I think they could have done a better job to find an alternate design. It is not as if Red Bull doesn’t have a massive marketing department for their company.
Meanwhile, I think Philadelphia and DC United have done a fairly good job in their logo design trying to add a historical element to their team logo. That is something New England could have done, instead of the Revolution. For example, I think the Minutemen would have been a far better name. With that name they could have developed an eye catching badge based on the Minuteman statue in Concord, Massachusetts.
I will give credit to Columbus with their away shirt. In my view black always looks sharp and the yellow vertical stripes are different, so at least there are some ideas floating around in their club. I am not a huge fan of the shirt but it does show some desire for change.
Overall, I will say most of the clubs are just rolling out dull kits. Colorado, New England, Toronto, Philadelphia, Chicago, and DC United are just a few lacking in any creativity. There isn’t anything there — bland and boring is what comes to mind. The majority of them just look the same with a few minor exceptions. Dallas could do such more with their kit, I like the hoop design but they need a little something more to add an attractive quality to the shirt.
Seattle’s third kit most be considered the worst of any of them. The shirt is just blinding. Their yellow shirt reminds me of a neon bar sign. I need sunglasses just to look at it, and you couldn’t pay me to wear it. Plus, the Sounders logo is a picture of the Space Needle. There is so more about Seattle, and that was the best idea? Plus, the other Sounder jerseys look like someone placed pieces of duct tape on the shirts. What is that all about?
Even the club I support, San Jose, could do more with their image. Overall the name isn’t bad but a soccer ball with shockwaves emerging from the ball? Something new needs to be developed. I do like the team colors (black, blue and white) but they have had the same shirt design, for the most part, for the last couple of years and I think they need to come up with a new one. I do like the San Jose white away jersey and even purchased one. I think it is step in the right direction.
I have not been impressed with any of the goalkeeper shirts from any club. Plus I haven’t seen any attempt by the clubs in selling them to the public so that should tell you what they think of them. Most of the goalkeeper tops are yellow, lime green, or black with white shorts — not exciting at all. If there is any shirt you can be creative with, it’s the goalkeeper jersey — lots of color and patterns could be used. Plus, if you have dark color uniforms you don’t use dark colors for the player’s name and number. In addition, start making the number one look like the number one and not sevens on team jerseys.
It would be nice to see more patterns with stripes, color patterns or infusion of color and shapes on the team uniforms. In looking at all the different leagues in the world so many of them have a sense of style and creativity to their team’s kit and I think it is something MLS marketers, clubs and Adidas designers should be looking at. The sad thing is that the states/provinces and cities where the clubs are based have such a rich history and culture and that could have been used in their logo design, kits and club names as well. For example the states, cities and provinces have flags and seals which could have been a factor in helping creating club identity.
Just look at the new expansion team in the NHL, the Winnipeg Jets. Granted, they were in Winnipeg before moving to Arizona. I have just seen their new logo and it looks amazing. It is sharp, sleek and eye catching. I give the designers a lot of credit in the development of the new logo. Winnipeg used their history of aviation connection with the city and Manitoba, and their close relationship with the Royal Canadian Air Force (based in the area) in the development of their new team logo. That is one stylish look that Winnipeg has created, so I do give them a lot of credit. Why can’t that happen with MLS teams?
As I said I am not a fan of the Adidas templates but having said that I think there is progress being made with other clubs. If you look in England, the Liverpool home and away shirts look very smart as do the Chelsea home and away shirts. I like the use of pattern and color in the Chelsea away shirt. I do like what West Brom have done with both their home and away shirts. I particular like the away shirt, with patterns and use of blue in the design. I think Stoke City has hit the nail on the head with a very nice kit design for both home and away for the next season. I believe Stoke City’s away shirt is going to be a huge success with the fans the black and blue stripes look fantastic. I think others have done well with the Adidas kit: Schalke, FC Nuremberg, Wolfsburg, Hamburg, Bayern Munich (away shirt) and although a bit busy, I give credit to Olympique Marseille with their home and away shirts. I think it can be done but the vast majority of MLS teams just seem so lazy in their kit design.
The MLS logo has got to go and something more creative must take its place. Unfortunately this not just a MLS problem. Most of the logos for professional league teams in the United States are just not creative enough. But for them it isn’t an issue because they are established such as the NFL, NHL, MLB and the NBA. But for soccer it is a different story. You need something to catch the attention of a public that hasn’t bought into the whole soccer thing. Again just looking at the different leagues around the world, they have produced some very attractive league logos. For example look at Serie A, Bundesliga, La Liqa and the Premier League and see what they have done and of course they are many leagues around the world to view as well. Why that can’t be done in the United States is beyond me.
Furthermore, I think placing the American and Canadian flag on the shirts is pointless, I just don’t get it. They aren’t national teams and the players come from all parts of the world not just the US or Canada. It further cheapens the meaning and the symbolism of the flags particularly the American flag (since I am an American) by placing it on everything. It makes it look too commercial and tacky.
Fans will buy team shirts to show their support but I am not going to waste my money on a product that is not pleasing to the eye. As of right now MLS has a lot of work to do. You don’t want your product to look like some fly-by-night operation. I would encourage the marketing departments all of the clubs to expand and begin rethinking how to show off their product.