When it comes to kit design, the United States men’s and women’s national teams have historically featured a wide array of styles. Outside of the patriotic color palette of red, white, and blue (most of the time, anyway), the hasn’t been much design consistency across the various incarnations of USMNT and USWNT uniforms. And with the apparent latest set leaking to mostly negative reviews, that got us wondering – what is the ideal USA kit?
What should be the main home color? Is the US a white team? Red? Blue? Perhaps a non-flag symbolic color, like the famous Dutch orange?
Is it a plain top? Stripes? Stars? A sash?
Is the general design something that should stick and become the trademark look of the team, or should it change to something fresh year over year?
Let’s see if we can answer those questions by taking a look back at the history of national team kits, and craft a new look for the USA.
Iconic or always changing?
This first question is an important one, and it sets up the entire exercise. Should the USA adopt a permanent general theme to its kit(s), or keep trying new designs with each release as they’ve always done?
To me it’s an easy answer – pick a look/theme and stick to it. Just about every major, successful nation (and club as well) has a classic look, at least for their home shirts. While the details may shift from year to year, the overall color, design and theme remains consistent over the years. Think about it – England, Brazil, Italy, the Netherlands, Argentina – in fact, every nation that has ever won a World Cup has a definitive home kit design. In the club game, it’s the same. AC Milan’s red and black stripes (and their neighbor Inter’s blue and black). Manchester United in red over white. Boca Juniors’ unmistakeable blue with the yellow chest stripe.
The USA ought to have a signature look for the national team as well. And it’s the perfect time for a visual rebirth: in 2026 the US is the main host for the World Cup, and it also happens to be the 250th anniversary of the signing of the US Declaration of Independence.
Now that we have that choice out of the way, what color is the canvas for our design? This is another massive decision, as that main color can define the identity of a national team.
This is one area where the US has been pretty consistent. Just about every official home jersey ever worn by the USMNT over the years has been primarily white. Two of their signature moments came in white shirts – the 1950 upset of England and the 2010 last minute goal vs Algeria that sent them on to the knockout stage in South Africa. In addition, the United States women were wearing white kits in 1991, 1999, 2015 and 2019 – all four times they took to the podium and raised the World Cup. The trend of national teams (and clubs) unifying the kit designs for their men’s and women’s sides is a good one. While the US hasn’t really had a great kit since they started doing this, we hope they continue outfitting both teams in the same design moving forward.
So historically this has been the default choice, and the program has had success in it. Plus, it jives well with the US flag, which appears as mainly white to the eye (somebody smarter than me can do the exact math) when you look at the 6 white stripes and 50 white stars. It also differentiates them from their two biggest regional rivals, Mexico and Canada, who wear green and red respectively.
So we’re rolling forward with a white home kit as the base for the USA’s signature style. And, for the sake of simplicity, let’s say the USSF sticks with Nike.
What is the design?
Here’s where it gets fun. What do you adorn that white shirt with, if anything?
In the century plus that the US national team has been playing, this is where they’ve been all over the place. Hoops, pinstripes, sashes, wavy stripes, faux denim – you name it, just about everything has been tried.
There have certainly been a few memorable – and loud – designs over the years. The aforementioned 1994 denim tops adorned with stars, 2012’s “Where’s Waldo” stripes (a look pioneered by 1983’s “Team America”, the de facto national team playing in the NASL), and 2014’s Bomb Pop look. But these all felt gimmicky. Partly because of their relative flamboyance, but also because none of them stuck. After the ’94 World Cup, US Soccer signed on with Nike, and have been at the whim of the Oregon-based sports giant ever since, totally changing shirt designs every two years or so.
There’ve been plenty of relatively plain jerseys for the USA over the years. But more often than not, instead of being a classy, dignified look, it ends up downright boring. A design element to anchor the look of the shirt is definitely the path to take. So what do we pick?
For me, the best look the USA has ever sported is the sash. As mentioned earlier, two of the biggest moments the men’s team have ever had were in a sash (1950 and 2010). The 1991 women’s world cup winners had a partial sash, in the form of the shoulder Adidas stripes that were a popular template at the time. It’s a sharp, distinctive look that is also relatively uncommon in the international game (only Peru comes to mind as a notable full-time sash-wearer).
So echoing the historic USA designs featuring the element, let’s do a left-to-right downward sash. This will also set the side apart from Peru who wears a right-to-left sash.
In the same vein, let’s make it primarily blue. The 2010 home version of the sash kit rendered the signature element in a light grey, making it nearly invisible (the blue away and red third versions of that design were superior visually, in this observer’s opinion). Making the sash a contrasting color definitely helps it stand out, but again to avoid looking like Peru (and River Plate), blue is the best choice. Let’s add some trim in red, in the style of the 2010 shirts, with a dark navy blue collar and sleeve cuffs. FIFA tends to prefer that teams wear one color head-to-toe, but that’s bland, so we’re going with contrasting blue shorts:
It’s a relatively basic sash, which could surely be filled with a detailed pattern or texture, but we’ll leave that for additional versions down the line. Let’s call this the classic version, the template for which future variations will be based upon.
Now that we have the general design down, let’s finish it off with the details. Because Nike wouldn’t put something out without going just a little bit over the top, would they?
We’ve added the standard name and numbering, with stars inside the back numbers, and a Betsy Ross flag at the rear neckline. For that little bit extra, there’s a parchment-colored stripe on the inner-collar with an excerpt from the Declaration of Independence. Who couldn’t see a Nike ad campaign ahead of the 2026 World Cup with “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit (of a trophy)” as the tagline?
With all the extra bells and whistles, we’ve got ourselves a finished design:
Eagle-eyed observers out there will notice we’ve slightly tweaked the USA crest. The 2016 crest update was decent – it lost the goofy flying buckyball and corrected the vexillological nightmare that was the blue stripes and red field of stars on the 90s-era crest it replaced. But the streamlined look is a bit too simple, as if something’s missing. So we’ve added back the 3-pointed top to the shield that was a hallmark of the US Soccer crest for most of it’s history, and modified the ‘USA’ font to better fit the new space:
But what about…
Okay, okay. We can’t just leave it with a home jersey right? With a new go-to home look locked in, the away and third kits are where you can have a little fun and try out new things with each cycle. But, to keep it simple, and well, give the people what they want, we’ve cooked up variants of two of the most popular designs from the past as the away and third choice kits for the new set:
For the away, we’ve got an adaptation of the 2012 Waldo kit. The stripes are a bit wider, so the gap on the front for the number isn’t necessary. We’ve also lost the faded sash from the original. We picked a sash for the main shirt, sashes look great, but not together with stripes. And while the OG Waldo was mostly white, this one is mostly red, with a red panel on the back for the name and number.
The third kit takes the 2014 Bomb Pop design, but makes it 50% more Bomb Pop-y. The central white stripe has a zig-zag effect, which along with tonal stripes mimic the ridges on the actual popsicle. In addition, the colors are flipped from the 2014 version, with blue on the bottom, true to the real life frozen treat. Here you can also see a 4-star logo treatment for the USWNT version.
So with that, we’ve got a brand new wardrobe for the US National Teams – filled with something traditional to last generations, as well as fanciful options that will get people talking and turn heads.
What do you think? Did we nail it? Or have we managed to do worse than Nike?
What’s your perfect USA kit?
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