Join Now | 
HomeAboutContact UsPrivacy & SecurityAdvertise
Soccer America DailySpecial EditionAround The NetSoccer Business InsiderCollege Soccer ReporterYouth Soccer ReporterSoccer on TVSoccer America Classifieds
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalkSoccer America ConfidentialYouth Soccer InsiderWorld Cup Watch
RSS FeedsArchivesManage SubscriptionsSubscribe
Order Current IssueSubscribeManage My SubscriptionRenew My SubscriptionGift Subscription
My AccountJoin Now
Tournament CalendarCamps & AcademiesSoccer GlossaryClassifieds
MLS jumps into the jersey game
by Ridge Mahoney, February 13th, 2013 5:35PM

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



3 comments
  1. Ric Fonseca
    commented on: February 13, 2013 at 7:43 p.m.
    Gee, golly willikers Robin, and all the while I thought that MLS was in support of the Garden State - New Jersey and by extension/connection in support of the "NY" Red Bull team and all the time it is about actual "team uniforms/jerseys!" I must've fallen asleep at the vtr and keyboard!!! But o well, as one who had to purchase uniforms for my college teams, club teams, and subsequently uniforms for my college athletic teams, to now try and emulate the MLS "pro" clubs and have three sets of uniforms... for sure means more dinero for the brand names, distributors and others such as SA's own uniform pages, read that store web site."

  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
Proposing a radical rule addition to protect players    
The best World Cup ever? Not if you are concerned about player safety.
Brazil Diary: Germans bring joy to Rio    
Two sets of fans on the subway leaving the Maracana station on Sunday night wore German ...
Soccer America's World Cup Best XI    
In a tournament with so many twists and turns, it isn't easy to come up with ...
Germany-Argentina Player Ratings    
A gripping World Cup final ended with a superb goal by Mario Goetze that earned Germany ...
Germany is Weltmeister, deservedly    
RIO DE JANEIRO -- Mario Goetze, who was born nearly two years after Germany last won ...
The 10 best things about the 2014 World Cup    
Brazil 2014 has been the best World Cup of our lifetime. Beginning with the first three ...
Brazil Diary: Meeting Pele     
Life is good. On Saturday I had the offer of a free sandwich and a roundtable ...
Dutch pile more misery onto Brazil's nightmare    
Few Brazilian fans could have foreseen how hosting the World Cup would end, with a depressing ...
Brazil Diary: Lost in translation but loving it    
I find Brazilian Portuguese to be a beautiful language. The woman's voice coming over the P.A. ...
Very different impressions left of two previous Argentina-Germany finals    
There were common elements to the 1986 and 1990 World Cup finals. Both were contested by ...
>> Soccer America Confidential Archives