Join Now  | 
Home About Contact Us Privacy & Security Advertise
Soccer America Daily Soccer World Daily Special Edition Around The Net Soccer Business Insider College Soccer Reporter Youth Soccer Reporter Soccer on TV Soccer America Classifieds Game Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalk Soccer America Confidential Youth Soccer Insider World Cup Watch
RSS Feeds Archives Manage Subscriptions Subscribe
Order Current Issue Subscribe Manage My Subscription Renew My Subscription Gift Subscription
My Account Join Now
Tournament Calendar Camps & Academies Soccer Glossary Classifieds
MLS jumps into the jersey game
by Ridge Mahoney, February 13th, 2013 5:35PM
Subscribe to Soccer America Confidential

MOST READ
TAGS:  mls

MOST COMMENTED

By Ridge Mahoney

MLS hopes to get good mileage out of its designation of the third weekend of the season as “Rivalry Week,” during which teams will square off with traditional and/or regional rivals, but “Jersey Week” will be a harder sell, pun intended.

Starting later this month, teams will roll out either new versions of their current jerseys -- home, away, or third -- or unveil the latter if it has no such garb already in its repertoire. The league has also mandated that each team will tweak, or change outright, one of its uniform designs every third year.

Third kits, as they are known, have become quite the marketing rage in the past decade or so. The proliferation of third, and for some teams even fourth or fifth, versions of their uniforms are common practice, and routinely decried by critics as a shameless ploy to fleece fans who can’t seem to resist buying what their teams are wearing.

Sometimes the third uniform depicts an element unique to that particular team. Portland added a rose-tinted outfit to honor its nickname as the “Rose City,” and whether or not you like the city or the soccer team the relationship and connection are obvious. When D.C. United unveiled a third uniform, one of dark blue, many years ago it initially triggered obstinate criticism from those attuned to seeing their “Boys in Black” or in the alternate white strip wearing something else.

The objections faded rather quickly, since the uniforms looked sharp and fell in line with the team’s original resistance to multi-colored monstrosities foisted upon the league in its early years. (Remember the garish green jersey adorned with a black bat once worn by the Tampa Bay Mutiny, or the Life-Saver inspired shirt of the Kansas City Wiz?)

Kevin Payne, D.C. United's first GM who recently resigned as president to take up the helm of Toronto FC, proclaimed proudly at every opportunity that his team’s uniforms stood out in MLS because they looked like soccer uniforms, and not something culled from a shuttered surf shop or low-rent skate park.

In its 18th year of existence, one can question the designs or color choices -- see Vancouver’s brown unis or Seattle’s “Rave Green” as classic cases of acquired taste -- but most of the time in MLS two teams take the field attired reasonably close to what’s accepted as a soccer uniform. United wore an orange-ish jersey as its third kit last year, and for some teams, like San Jose, they’re not much different than either the home or away jersey.

Tolerance of such marketing money-grabs has its limits. Designs and colors and crests are embedded for many decades, and with some teams for more than a century. Manchester United a few years back introduced a green-and-yellow jersey similar to that one worn in its formative years when it was known as Newton Heath, and since it didn’t affect the team’s ability to win it gained some acceptance

But another United uniform, of anthracite gray -- similar color to that worn by the USA some years back -- is regarded as cursed. During the 1995-96 season, United failed to win any of five matches it played wearing the gray jersey. The last straw came against Southampton near the end of the season when United went down three goals at halftime. Manager Alex Ferguson ordered the players to wear the club’s third kit (at the time, blue-and-white) for the second half. United scored a goal yet still lost, 3-1, and after the match Ferguson decreed the players couldn’t see each other clearly in the gray uniforms. They haven’t been worn since.

Fans, especially those with children who clamor to wear the newest jersey, had already questioned why a team with a third kit needed another one. Fair point.

Commemorative or throwback jerseys for special occasions have been worn a few times by MLS teams. As the early days recede further into history, they will take on more of a nostalgic sheen. That doesn’t mean newer fans will rush out to buy up MetroStars ’97 replicas but viewing such relics on display will deeper their appreciation of the league’s past.

What has all this to do with “Jersey Week?” Only that uniforms are very vivid elements of a team’s identity, and they shouldn’t be tampered with excessively.

And since soccer fans are very superstitious animals, there’s always the chance that if the idea gets planted that a uniform, along with the referees and league officials and everybody else conspiring against the team’s success, is causing the team problems, it won’t be flying off the shelves.

Soccer America on Twitter:Follow Soccer America | Paul Kennedy | Ridge Mahoney | Mike Woitalla



2 comments
  1. Thaddeus Machnik
    commented on: February 13, 2013 at 9:43 p.m.
    Sorry, won't buy it. The current jerseys are produced overseas, are cheaply made, and way overpriced. Now management wants to gouge the public even more. MLS, you're killing the golden goose. Wake up America!
  1. Kyr-Roger St.-Denis
    commented on: February 13, 2013 at 10:48 p.m.
    Gee don't I wish Thaddeus Machnik was right; but I think he's just even more of a cynic than I am. I hardly thought that possible. Yes, the jerseys are cheaply made in low-wage countries, like everything else we wear these days, and they reflect monopoly prices, i.e., way too much. But the golden goose will die on its own when the fashion for branded clothing passes, regardless of what MLS or any other franchise does. They're just trying to get their slice of the shrinking pie before Americans and Europeans decide at last that anything north of $35 for a shirt that's not hand-stitched of Pima or Egyptian cotton is too much to pay. I may or may not live to see the day, but it will come.

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now




AUTHORS

ARCHIVES
FOLLOW SOCCERAMERICA

Recent Soccer America Confidential
If the song remains the same, how can it be rewritten?    
Thumped by Argentina in a Copa America Centenario semifinal, the U.S. will nonetheless take positives from ...
Stepping on toes? That's not the solution to improving U.S. soccer    
Do you wonder what kind of advice Jurgen Klinsmann was giving his players during their loss ...
USA reaps benefits of South American opposition    
Reaching a Copa America Centenario semifinal against Argentina to be played on Tuesday is being hailed ...
USA has reason to celebrate but suspensions sure take edge off big win    
First, the good news from Thursday night in Seattle. The USA's 2-1 victory over Ecuador, which ...
Centenario group phase serves up plenty of spectacle, drama, and controversy    
When big teams like Brazil and Uruguay fell prone to lapses, other nations took advantage to ...
Guzan seizes chance for No. 1 shirt    
Seven straight games including all three at the Centenario have featured Brad Guzan in goal; he ...
Berliner John Brooks takes charge of USA's defense    
Just three years ago, John Brooks, born and raised in Berlin but the son of a ...
USA's 'musts' for Paraguay game if it isn't 'must-win'    
The Copa America Centenario results to date are mirror images of what occurred in March, when ...
May Clint Dempsey long play for the USA    
Hard to believe, but as recently as January there was speculation about whether Clint Dempsey would ...
How Klinsmann can fix his midfield    
I'd suggest for Jurgen Klinsmann, after opening the Copa Centenario with a 2-0 loss to Colombia, ...
>> Soccer America Confidential Archives