MLS: You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby

Photo by Coachie Ballgames

The North American Soccer Almanac, an impressive introspective on MLS history, continues to drop fascinating content chronicling the game’s growth in America and America’s hat. The year 1996 may seem like eons ago, but Major League Soccer has since scaled heights thought impossible back then. Every facet of the game is immensely more professional. Perhaps nothing signifies this professional polish more than each team’s current branding as the league has evolved from awkward nouns and intransitive verbs to more traditional club names and from day-glo horror shirts to today’s mostly pleasing looks.

The Almanac just released this look back at some of the looks teams have rocked since the league’s birth. I think you’ll agree that the contrast with today is striking.

34 thoughts on “MLS: You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby”

  1. What is the point of this post ?
    To make fun of American soccer ?
    Or to preach that Football Club Dallas is a better name than Tampa Bay Mutiny ?

    The first one is par for the course for this site.
    The second one……If I had a dollar for every time a kid asked me, why the Sounders are FC instead of SC, I would make more than Beckham.

    My answer is the same as my response to this post. A bunch of insecure Americans were embarrassed to be even the slightest bit unique in forming their own identity.
    The Minnesota Kick, Montreal Manic, Seattle Sounders…..OH THE HORRORS ! PLEASE STOP !

      1. Oh. OK, THAT makes sense.
        Sounders FC, when you share a stadium, ticketing agents, etc with the Seahawks….not so much.

        1. IT does make sense Charles. Remember, MLS is a franchise single entity model with all players signed to MLS and not individual clubs. That’s why everyone is consumed with MLS doing well in CCL and not individual teams.

          1. So it has nothing to do with American soccer fans having pride in their league and wanting to see teams from said league do well in international competitions?

            Considering MLS is a growing and young league, it makes sense for the fans to have a more communal interest in the teams when they play clubs from other leagues.

            Don’t you have someone else to troll?

          2. MLS fans are an interesting breed. I’ve never heard anyone root for the NFL (GO NFL!). I’ve never heard of anyone root for MLB (GO MLB!). Garber and Co. got all of you spun in a circle.

          3. No comparison with MLB or NFL, they don’t have world rivals.

            I don’t think it is odd to root for teams from your country, I listen to English podcasts and they are homer’s for the EPL teams in the Champions’ League. MLS is still new and people worry about it’s survival and niche. Not long ago, I used to look at attendance numbers before the score of a game because I worried about the league surviving. Now I don’t worry. And I usually root against the Rapids MLS rivals.

          4. I know Franchise Club makes more sense. I said that.

            I have no problem in admitting they are franchises. I am not embarrassed about having a real league where competition decides the winner rather than wealth.

            I am the exact opposite of embarrassed, I wish all the leagues could catch a clue for the sake of the poor team’s fans.

          5. BTW, everyone is consumed by MLS doing well because of cluless morons like you putting it down all the time.

            You know that.
            I know that.

            just admit it.

            Single franchise, no one views the teams as one and the same that is the dumbest thing I have heard since your last post.

          6. So it’s wrong for fans of English clubs to cheer for other English clubs to do well in the Champions League? Because that’s what most English fans do

            /boom headshot

          7. I don’t think that’s entirely true. There are no other competitions like CCL in American sports, with the exception of college (American) football where teams from different leagues play for championships and bowls. For the most part in college (American) football SEC fans cheer on SEC teams against Big Ten, Pac-12, ACC teams. It’s a similar thing and has nothing to do with the franchising.

            Now in college (American) football, arch rivals will not cheer on their opposing school. You’ll never see Ohio State cheering for Michigan, Oregon for Oregon State, Auburn for Alabama due to conference pride. However, last year in MLS when everyone had MLS4RSL, Colorado fans did not cheer on RSL.

            People want their leagues to do well.

          8. Tim- I never said it is wrong or right for English or American fans to root for their countries’ clubs teams in regional competition, I just said it is not a big deal, and it is partly reflective of past play. I rooted for all English clubs in Europe in the 90’s because they not one Europe in a long while and I enjoyed watching them more than the slow Italian sides that dominated at the time. As the MLS has not won this in a long time, I think it is natural for some to root for them. RSL nearly changed that last year, but I rooted against them because I hate RSL.

            Conversely, in the last few years I’ve rooted AGAINST all the English sides in Europe (except Tottenham) because I got sick the big 4 dominance of England and Europe.

            My point is, that it is not logical and neither wrong nor right. It is just fun, enjoy it.

    1. Oh lighten up Charles. MLS teams aren’t the only clubs in the world who have a history of ridiculous uniforms, names, and hairstyles. Tell me you don’t chuckle a little bit when looking at the old Wiz uniforms or Brian McBride’s hair.

      Actually, Umbro had an awesome slideshow (last year, sadly) on their site about all the crazy designs they’ve put out over the years. Not even historic clubs like ManU could escape the awesomely awfulness of the early 90’s.

      As for the names, I know you don’t like pandering to Eurosnobs, but if having unique identity means having a name like “kick”,”manic”, or “menace”, I’ll happily choose Cityname+FC/SC. Better to have a generic soccer team name than a generic arena football league name.

      1. Well you are entitled to your opinion. I LOVE the old NASL names.
        MLS could use a team called Roughnecks. EPL could use 20 names like that. Magpies ? are you kidding ? no ?

        Maybe I need to lighten up, you have been on here long enough to know I am not going to let American soccer get ripped on my idiots who like to do that sort of thing…..But I don’t see anyone saying Euro league X, you have come a long way.
        Sounds very demeaning to me.

  2. I am off to read about NCAA soccer on a real site.
    Enjoy the morons as they post dumb posts on why that is the wrong way to do things.

    Have a great weekend.

    1. They don’t do it that way in Europe Charles. I read that on, bleacher report, and a bunch of other websites, so I know everything about soccer. Jeez, they should just screw college because EPL doesn’t do it that way. Oh, and MLS sucks.

      I think I covered the main trolling comments for you. Oh yeah, pro/rel will fix everything. Forgot that one too.

      1. You’re wrong! If the same three teams (surely a NYC team, a LA team and another in those two cities or Chicago because there isn’t any other spectator sport competition worth following for the people there) wins the league every year, it will turn America into a true soccer nation.

        It would make the season for Everton and Tottenham and worse teams in the league to slay a giant because in their heart of hearts, they won’t win the league unless a sugar daddy buys in. MLS is nuts! Anyone see that graphic where NY and LA are spending 12-13 million on payroll which is well over other teams and it’s not a slam dunk that either will win the league.

        Look at Rochester Rhinos even though attendance is down since they were relegated…but now we know who the true fans are and the 51st largest metropolitan area should care about third tier soccer after being a flagship team in the second tier for so long.

        1. You lost me at NY and LA winning every year. I quit reading you post as fast as I quit watching MLB when the only thing they cared about was big TV ratings by showing NY-Boston or the NBA with LA and Boston, even influencing outcomes to get it.

          Please refund my season ticket money for next year.
          Signed one of the few season ticket holders on this site….Charles

      2. College soccer is fine, for what it is. But there’s no question that taking your best players out of professional competition for their prime development years is not the best way to develop them. MLB long ago realized this. That’s why they draft 18 year olds. But they also realized that college can be a good backdoor path into the league and plenty of people enjoy watching college baseball. I’d be more intrigued by NCAAS if they played actual IFAB rules soccer. But I plan on going to the Final Four this year since it’ll be fairly close to me.

        1. BamaMan,

          You have that completely backward. There is a HUGE question on whether putting them in the pros in late teens, early twenties makes any sense. Read Moneyball. MLS ARE the Oakland As on steroids. Zero money versus many leagues with NYs and Bostons kind of money.

          Not saying that baseball teams aren’t playing multi-millions for high school talent, a friend of my wifes was one of them… multi-millions, never made the majors of course…but baseball and too a large degree soccer is a sport that takes a long time to learn. Guessing on 18 year olds is not smart business, it is calculated gambling. They know now it is smarter to sort out who can play in MLS by watching who can play in a REAL competition, COLLEGE.

          1. I’m confused. So does South America produce most of the best soccer talent in the world because of money or a strong college system? You’re saying those are the only two ways to develop talent, right?

          2. South America does not really have a college system, period. Apples and oranges. I highly doubt that they produce those players because of their lack of college soccer. Second, a lot of college players play in summer leagues at different levels of the soccer pyramid. There, they can get “promoted” up the soccer food chain based on their individual performance. Third, you CAN have both college for those that want to attend school AND have a club system. If you think that college soccer sucks, then help improve it.

          3. The cultural ignorance it takes to suggest that there are no colleges in South America blows my mind. There are plenty of colleges, and some of them even have soccer clubs competing in their respective countries national soccer pyramid. South America has clubs that invest in talent development from an early age. They give players a chance to develop their skills in a non-competitive but extremely demanding environment from an early age. The college system in the US basically takes our best talent in their prime out of the system and puts them in a form of soccer that barely resembles the international version of the game. College coaches don’t give a whit about player development; they’re (understandably) focused on winning in order to keep their own jobs. Then they churn out players at the age of 22-23 with zero professional experience. In the US, Lionel Messi would have entered pro soccer two years ago. He would have wasted some of his most productive years not making a penny for helping a college win a “soccer” championship that no one outside the school cares about. It’s a ridiculous way to develop your best talent. Like I said, there is a place for college soccer and it should be along the lines of college baseball. Let the players good enough to do so go pro straight out of high school. Let college be a set up for everyone else.

          4. Are you seriously suggesting that South America doesn’t have a college system? That’s pretty culturally ignorant.

            Under the US system, Lionel Messi, Pele, Maradona, and others would have skipped out on some of their best years as pros and internationals. They also would have lost out on millions of dollars in professional earnings for that time period.

            College works for NFL and Olympic sports because athletes in those sports peak later and, in the case of Olympic sports, there really aren’t very many lucrative non-Olympic competitions.

          5. BamaMan,

            What I meant was that their college system does not tie into their pro system that much, if at all. You really can’t compare the two. You will never get away from a college system here in the US, but you can have both. Different strokes for different folks. Saying to an 18 year old, “well either play pro or don’t go to school”, is unnecessary. The college system allows 19-22 year olds a chance (if they want to) to go to college AND play in the summer for PDL teams. That would totally be the player’s choice, but it is foolish to overlook either system.

        2. One thing is for certain as long as the NCAA is offering an education while playing soccer there will be very little interest in guys coming out of high school to use the academies as the only resource.
          Mom would you like you kid to try and make MLS while getting an education or try to make MLS while playing video games with his friends ?

          You seriously just compared South American youth to American youth regarding soccer.
          You don’t see any difference there ? Apples and Oranges does not come close to describing the difference.

          My viewpoint is that there is no money in MLS. Close to zero, and they are cranking out MLS teams that are very good. Why ?

          The college system have thousands of players playing at zero cost and it is feeding MANY VERY good players every year into the league. The academies will never come close to being able to match these numbers…even when MLS has money.

          We have already seen this many times before. Almost all the olympic sports are fed this way. People come from all over the world to play collegiate olympic sports, they use it as a training ground as well as a great opportunity to get an education. Soccer is no different.

          1. That’s why MLS needs to assist their academy and developmental players in obtaining schooling. Pay for most, or all, of their tuition. Being a professional soccer player leaves plenty of time to be a student. If Kohls can pay for the shoe department guys college then RSL can pay for Luis Gils.

            If MLS pushed this, as a benefit for youngsters to sign and develop in MLS, I believe this would attract lots of talent. I’m not saying the next Messi would rather play for the Earthquakes than Barcelona because San Jose State is down the road. However, I believe the next Agbossmonde (sp?) might think very hard about signing with MLS over some agency or SPL club.

  3. MLS has come so far in the play on the pitch,tactics,and still that hard working mentality.I can see MLS dominating north america one day.I just wanna see more money and freedom in the league.I witnessed good attendance besides Seattle,and L.A.When pro/reg happens and all u old scary farts stop re- living NASL fear of our league folding.I’ll say dam MlS came a long way.Even tho I hate The Carolina Railhawks they should be promoted
    But I think once NBC thing starts its gonna be on and poppin in MLS.

  4. Ok The Rapids and Sporting KC colors are awfull, having sponsers in shirts are not great either common!! i know it brings money in but man its not a good look. if they decide to put sponsers in baseball or football jerseys, fans will be furious, lets just hope one of the teams does not get a Mc.donalds or wallmart sponsor in their shirts, and lets hope FIFA never gives permission to federations to put sponsors in our national team jerseys, i think rugby and basketball have that.

  5. Is it that MLS teams have finally gotten their act together and gotten better styles in uniforms? Or is it that styles have changed over time, like they always do? Watch movies from the mid-90s and it’s easy to laugh at the clothes worn or hair styles–simply because they’re different from what’s in style today.

    I wonder if you could put together a similar slideshow comparing EPL or Bundesliga kits from different decades, and have the differences be just as glaring.

  6. Oh god, I just knew this thread would turn into the usual hobby-horse session. Pro-rel, franchises, single entity, parity, team names, college system: this thread has it all.

    @Matt – you’re right – to a large degree, these team outfits simply look bad because it was 15 years ago. Everything looked bad when you look back at those days.

    But also, I think these look significantly worse than EPL or Bundesliga shirts from the same period, because these were new teams, with no historical constraints. Man Utd (for example) might have had some hideous shirts in that era, but at least their home shirt would always be red. If you form a new team, you don’t have the same sense of tradition, so designers take that as license to run wild with the whackiest fashions of the day.

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