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MLS 2021 Kit Roundup

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Our second-annual deep dive as Jeffrey P. Nesker and Mark Hinkley break down and grade every kit in MLS this season.

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Graphics : Jeffrey P. Nesker

Tag Team, back again ...

Here we go, sports fans Kit Nerds! The second annual tete-a-tete betwixt myself and the illustrious Mark Hinkley: the first, second, and last word on kits in my sphere. I’m just happy to share the same rarified air, to be honest.

As before, we’ll each contribute a blurb and a rating. Settle in, brew a cuppa. This is going to be an adventure!

JPN (Jeffrey P. Nesker) : Overall, I’m fairly impressed with this year’s crop of kits. It’s definitely getting harder each new round not to play “spot the template”, especially after the unified design across the “MLS25” range that dropped last year. As an astute Gooner, and understanding that Arsenal is one of Adidas “elite” clubs, you don’t have to look that hard to see where Adidas found the basic skins (templates) to base this years MLS kits on. In fact, there are arsenal-adjacent stripes all over this year’s salvo. Many kits are the same template as the 20/21 Home Kit, and even the weirdo TFC A41 template is making the rounds; it looks like Arsenal’s 21/22 away kit will be based on it.

This is already a long read, so I’ll stop and get on with the show!


Atlanta United (Primary)

MLSSoccer.com

Mark Hinkley (MH) : Oh hai, it’s the team that’s named after the number of vertical lines on their badge, I guess this is still their symbol going forward, right? Much like MLS & Adidas’ penchant for all teams having a white kit, It now becomes the race to get everyone a black kit. I like the cuffs, but the five red lines emanating from the throat is weird and boring and a bit like a knockoff guitar from by a company lacking attention to detail. I think their jock tag is aesthetically nice, but it’s such a small swatch that it doesn’t affect the final grade, I just wanted to highlight it.

GRADE : C+

JPN : Someone called this the “banjo kit” and I think that describes it to a T. I originally gave it a B+ ... I must have been having a good hair day.

GRADE : C-


Austin FC (Primary/Secondary)

MLSSoccer.com

JPN : Clean, classy, striped. It’s not re-inventing the wheel, but it’s not burning my retinas either.

GRADE : B

MH : Another predominantly black kit, but the front is really nice. A clean sponsor in giant block letters, green and black stripes, black collar and cuffs, white stripes on the shoulders. For a first attempt, it’s a beauty and would want... if you can get past their owner and his shenanigans, and I can’t.

GRADE : A-

MLSSoccer.com

MH : Oh look, a white kit. We should have a hard and fast rule, if white isn’t your predominant home colour, your grade caps at a B+. Template look alike from 25th anniversary kit. The most interesting part is the inside collar, which is such a waste of a design effort given that we don’t have transparent necks, you only see it unworn. Don’t wear this while eating anything with ketchup. I’m bored looking at this and offended at its price.

GRADE : D-

JPN : It’s a throwback to a throwback! Obviously this was designed in tandem with last year’s MLS25 crop. While it’s nice to see the shoulder stripes again, it’s a very white shirt, and that’s kinda unforgivable.

GRADE : F


Chicago Fire (Primary/Secondary)

MLSSoccer.com

JPN : I am a sucker for that particular shade of blue, so it’s blinding me to how pedestrian the rest of this kit actually is.

GRADE : B+

MH : Terrible badge aside, they’re wearing navy and red better than New England does. Simple kit, and a sponsor that plays along with the colours is always a nice touch. The double red striping on the collar seems fresh for this league. Doesn’t feel like too much effort went into this other than getting the dyes correct. That badge looks a little stupid though.

GRADE : B-

MLSSoccer.com

MH : OK so this might be the most ‘Chicago Kit’ ever in MLS (which is STILL behind every Chicago Red Stars kit ever made), but, hey, baby steps. While it’s a white kit, they did a great job of incorporating some civic imagery with the use of the 6-pointed stars appearing vertically along thin horizontal striping in varying in thicknesses. Navy Adidas striping, font, and sponsors works well. Could’ve used a bit of the red from the flag a tad more than just the jock tag and inside collar. That badge looks a little stupid though, just slightly less in monochromatic.

GRADE : B+

JPN : Reminds me too much of last year’s Indy Eleven away kit. Lazy. Yet I loved last year’s Indy Eleven away kit. I am conflicted.

GRADE : D-


FC Cincinnati (Primary)

MLSSoccer.com

JPN : People are mad for this one, and I absolutely cannot see why. There have been better Cincy kits in the club’s short history. This one kinda gives me “ill-fitting Sportcoat” vibes. That collar looks familiar though.

GRADE : C

MH : Three very good home kits in a row. This navy effort lets the badge pop off the shirt, the alternating royal blue and orange pinstripes give off some class, orange trim on the cuffs and the shoulder stripes. It’s a lovely bit of shirt. I’d have been curious to see what the sponsor would’ve looked like in orange, as the contrast of it being in white does a lot of heavy lifting to make the sponsor pop. If I were an FCC supporter, I’d be very pleased.

GRADE: A


Colorado Rapids (Secondary)

MLSSoccer.com

MH : Oh look, a white kit... or is it a very light mint green? Judges say mint green. Well done. It says “One Club” in the collar - take that Portland for being four or five clubs at once! (No, I do not get it.) Anyways, it has topographical maps of six mountains in Colorado, which is apparent if you do know, and looks like weird fingerprints if you don’t. The Rapids wore green once upon a time (as with half the rainbow) so my nostalgia kicks in and will let them have this. Well done and congrats on a not-exactly-white kit!

GRADE: B

JPN : Nope. Someone said “Give me the paper-thin single button 2019 TFC big-red, but make it white!” That someone should be fired.

GRADE: F


Columbus Crew (Secondary)

MLSSoccer.com

JPN : Really corners the market of people that want to spend the better part of $200 on something that looks like it was folded wrong and shipped to you pre-creased. “Yes, I’d like to return an item...”

GRADE : C-

MH : Let’s assume that I know what the new stadium looks like, just for a moment. I still don’t know what this grey pattern is supposed to be. Are those the magnified teeth of a hand saw? Is that a series of two-dimensional pylons? I don’t get it. I want to ignore this pattern so much to focus on the nice use of black and yellow trim on the cuffs and v-neck collar, but I cannot. And this top goes with yellow shorts and socks, which is absurd to me.

GRADE : D for the shirt, F for the whole ensemble.


FC Dallas (Secondary)

MLSSoccer.com

MH : Steal the Pajama blue colourway from Sporting KC, add some weird red and navy confetti flecks and *BAM* — kit is done. If I was forced to say something nice, I would say that the collar is OK. They phoned in the design of this kit so you can keep your money.

GRADE : D

JPN - Baby blue is a sick colour. Points for baby blue. Points for the subtle splashes of red, which I’m 1000% sure will only feature on the authentic version of the shirt. It’s classy but it’s sooooo boring. That’s not a deal breaker, but it doesn’t provoke breathless praise either.

GRADE : C+


DC United (Secondary)

MLSSoccer.com

JPN : Looks like a kitchen countertop, circa 1992. Want to hate but can’t help liking for it’s subtle audacity.

GRADE : C

MH : Oh look, a white kit. Still, bravo to DC United on adding a second colour (which if you are of the belief that black and white aren’t colours, and I am, this is accurate.) It wasn’t so hard. You don’t have to commit to this royal blue forever [insert RonSwansonProudOfYou.gif here]. Slightly cloudy camo in the main print, not enough to offend, but enough to fool the eye into activity. In the pantheon of DC United away kits, this is really good. In new MLS kit terms, it’s good.

GRADE : B-


Houston Dynamo (Primary)

MLSSoccer.com

JPN : It’s basic, but Orange kits, when done tastefully, rule.

GRADE : B+

MH : The orange team have an orange kit. Nothing bonkers. Very simple and clean. Black with white trim on the v-neck collar and cuffs. It feels like a safe reset before bonkers for the next cycle. Their badge looks more like a fashion label than something belonging to a footy club.

GRADE : B


LAFC (Secondary)

MLSSoccer.com

JPN : I hate and love this equally, which is weird. Looks like a Hanes undershirt and that sucks but is also super cool. Those sleeves absolutely make the kit, and the on-the-nose shirt sponsor makes this a conversation piece. It’s different, and that has to count for something.

GRADE : B+

MH : I can’t unsee those cuffs. It looks like someone took fashionable underwear waistbands and put it on the cuffs. It even has the stitched font look. I’d hope the shorts have it but I don’t want to look and ruin the mystique. The weird cream-gold and black still works for this new side, and the kit doesn’t feature a third colour. I’m glad the ringer collar doesn’t have the wording from the cuffs. Overall, this it a bit “trying hard to be cool”, but having the word FLEX as a sponsor is kinda sweet.

GRADE : B-


LA Galaxy (Secondary)

MLSSoccer.com

JPN : I. LOVE. THIS. I love everything about it, even the FIFA mandated solid black back (because it is what it is at this point). While I think the OG 90’s Nike, this apes is slightly more aesthetically pleasing, I’m sure this remix is more flattering and comfortable to wear. This is my favourite kit of the series, hands down. Wish I’d pulled the trigger on the long-sleeve with “Vanney 21” on the back.

GRADE : A++

MH : I don’t know if we ever fully appreciated the kits and colour pallet of the pre-Beckham LA Galaxy. They were loud, garish, sometimes cringey, but they were unique. No one in football would DARE copy them, nor should you ever. That being said, the most nostalgic colours I would love to see is Galaxy v1.0 and this kit is the taste I’ve been looking for. Teal and black stripes with gold pinstripes scratches that itch. My eye and brain keeps looking for some red (there isn’t) but I adore this. White and black cuffs, collar and white stripes on the shoulder. This is fantastic. Give me a gold and teal sashed kit next and charge me full price.

GRADE : A+


Inter Miami (Secondary)

MLSSoccer.com

MH : Black kit. Crap light pink stripes and Adidas logo. There’s a badge. There’s a teal stripe inside the collar. There is a winged pattern in the kit. This is barely a training top.

GRADE : F

JPN : Boo! Hiss! It’s tragicomic that Miami have yet to release a kit that’s even 2% Miami-Gauche. It’s like they are strangers in their own town.

GRADE : F-


Minnesota United (Primary)

MLSSoccer.com

MH : So this looks like a pallet swap of the Houston kit, change orange for the light blue in the badge. Black and light blue cuffs and collar, black stripes on the shoulders, something on the neck tape. It’s OK. It looks good, nothing game changing, but good.

GRADE : B

JPN : That blue is dope. Nothing else to see here.

GRADE: C+


CF Montreal (Primary)

MLSSoccer.com

JPN : This makes me sad for Montreal fans. First a rebrand nobody wanted, and THIS is how you announce yourselves? Hard pass. The less I say about the badge, the better.

GRADE : D

MH : Let me throw in for the badge, it’s not bad, design wise. It’s clever, it’s a snowflake, it’s symmetrical. It’s a bad name, and the shade of blue is bad. Now onto this kit, which is as dynamic as the badge. It features the well-designed snowflake on the imprint of the fabric. But this is on a black kit with little blue collar and cuff trim. And then there’s the sponsor, which looks silver, on a black kit with a black and white badge. The minimalist use of colour is dulling to the senses, and in sport where colour is encouraged, this kit is a vacuum of fun next to Miami’s void.

GRADE : F


Nashville SC (Secondary)

MLSSoccer.com

MH : A dark navy kit, with fluorescent yellow trim on the collar, sponsor, etc. Two colours. There’s a design on the body of a kit that’s the stylized “N” in the badge, but... I feel like I’ve seen this pattern before with Umbro last season. They had the fragmented double diamond patterns everywhere. There’s a sound wave pattern on the back of the neck and who knows what the hell that might be.

GRADE : C+

JPN : I love the yellow accents, really elevate the kit. I think it will pop on TV, so I’m considering that in my grade.

GRADE : B


New England Revolution (Secondary)

MLSSoccer.com

JPN : What’s with these “fold marks”? it looks like someone found a box of these in a time capsule and they’ve aged according to the folds. It’s weird. I hate it.

GRADE : F

MH : Oh look, a white kit. The most interesting part about this kit is the absolutely revolutionary* shoulder stripes and cuffs having light blue on one side and navy blue on the other. There’s a calendar zoomed in on the Sunday/Monday split near the end of the month (as the one side and bottom parts of the calendar are greyed out). This uniform has light blue socks. This kit isn’t worth half of what they’re charging.

* = not actually revolutionary

GRADE : F


NYCFC (Primary)

MLSSoccer.com

JPN : I dig this muchly. Love the chunky crew-neck and sleeve-cuffs, though that screaming white is ring-around-the-collar City FC. Points deducted for the white Adidas badge, which you can probably see from space.

GRADE : B+

MH : OK, this is nice enough. Sky blue kit with white cuffs, thick ringer collar and shoulder stripes. There’s a striping imprint in the chest and sleeve fabric that looks different and fresh, at least for MLS. I feel like the NYC monogram repeating in the chest is a bit overkill.

GRADE : B+


New York Red Bulls (Primary)

MLSSoccer.com

JPN : How many otherwise decent kits are the Bulls of Red going to outright ruin with that tramp stamp? At least this time around the kit sucked beforehand. Feels like they stole that checkerboard pattern from far better Columbus Crew stripes.

GRADE : D-

MH : Oh look, a white kit. I know, it’s a home kit so it gets a bit of a pass. It’s got checkers (yay!) but they’re fuzzy (huh?!). The magnification makes it seem like it’s a stitching pattern, which it neat, but zoomed out, I think I need to clean my glasses again. White v-neck, red adidas shoulder striping and the cuff has an alternating red and white trim. I’d like it much more if the checkers weren’t fuzzy, but it’s fine.

GRADE : B


Orlando City SC (Primary)

MLSSoccer.com

MH : Orlando’s run of quality home stripes continues. The body features their purple on the bottom half and a darker purple up top, separated by a very narrow and long triangular teeth (stupid Easter turkey is killing my descriptive words). The collar is thicker than usual with two buttons in the front. Cuffs have a thin bit of white, shoulders have white stripes. It’s simple, interesting and eye catching. Well done Orlando.

GRADE : A-

JPN : Template-wise it’s a mash up of the 2019 single button (see: TFC’s big red kit) and the shoulder-pads that continue on the back template that appears throughout this year’s crop. The factory must hate this one. I don’t. It’s tremendous.

GRADE : A


Philadelphia Union (Secondary)

MLSSoccer.com

JPN : First out of the gate, first into our hearts, this fan-designed shirt is fabulous, just fabulous. More of this please, MLS.

GRADE : A

MH : It’s not a white f***ing kit. Bold stance, very brave. This kit’s lightning pattern on the front looks like something from Adidas’ lifestyle fashion line—where waif adults posing as teens would be looking too cool for you on a stoop in front of a brownstone they actually don’t live in. It’s nice, but it’s aiming for a demographic here. Yellow washes out the badge and sponsor a bit, but I’m not mad at it. I would have been interested to see a bit of the navy as trim or subtle decoration, but this is the kind of wacky Adidas and MLS should be shooting for. Especially the not-a-white-kit part.

GRADE : B


Portland Timbers (Primary)

MLSSoccer.com

JPN : WOW. I think I shouldn’t like this —it’s VERY busy and more than a little bit pretentious with the cross-stitching pattern, but it’s Portland and they rarely miss. I’m helpless against it’s power. this kit kinda rules.

GRADE : A

MH : Another club that typically gets great home kits. Similar collar as Orlando, thick with two buttons, gold shoulder stripes and cuffs. The front is half their green, other half a darker version of their green. The back of the kit is the darker shade than the lighter one, but it contrasts wonderfully with the sleeves. This is very, very nice.

GRADE : A


Real Salt Lake (Secondary)

MLSSoccer.com

MH : Oh look, a white kit. Navy striping on the shoulders, maroon on the cuffs and the ringer collar. I like the monochrome maroon badge. So while the body looks like a cartoon collage mess, it at least looks interesting when you can see it up close. Apparently, this has meaning to people in Salt Lake City, and I’m not about to chase anyone down to confirm this but it looks like they tried to add some character, and not use a calendar as a source of information.

GRADE : B

JPN : Is that ... clip-art? I didn’t have “kit as windows 95 screen-saver” on my bingo card. Shame. Make the nameset Wingdings, you cowards

GRADE : D-


San Jose Earthquakes (Primary)

MLSSoccer.com

MH : I see what they’re doing here. This appears to be a nod to their Nike-era pre-move to Houston home kits and I’m here for it. Black and white V-neck collar, white cuffs and shoulder stripes, white side panels. I absolutely dig this. This was a very successful era for the original recipe Quakes so embrace it.

GRADE : A-

JPN : I knew nothing about the history of this kit, nothing on the intrigue behind it, etc. So I’m not nearly as taken. Are they brave enough to rock gold shorts with this one too? I mean. it’s not like they matched any of the kits they paired them with in the first place ...

GRADE : B-


Seattle Sounders (Secondary)

MLSSoccer.com

JPN : I desperately want to like this, but it feels like a T-shirt I’d buy for 5 bucks at Giant Tiger to ruin on a camping trip. I love the Jimi, but this ain’t it.

GRADE : C

MH : OK, I might be banned from this next year after the following comment: I don’t get it. Like I GET it, but I don’t. Let’s say some nice things, there’s THREE colours AND black AND white. This is already the most colourful kit in the league. The designers must have been super uncomfortable with this direction. Black ringer collar, orange shoulder stripes, black and orange cuffs. All the markings on the shirt are fluorescent yellow/green. And then there’s the purple and black swirl. Because it’s purple haze. Because Hendrix. Because he’s from Seattle. That being said, the box set release of this kit came with a scarf that’s f***ing art and I need it. The kit, less so. I cannot tell if it’s trying super hard or if it hits the mark.

GRADE : B-


Sporting Kansas City (Primary)

MLSSoccer.com

JPN : SKC have a long and storied history of kits that match my favourite dress socks and I’m. Here. For. It.

GRADE : A

MH : Hoops, but not the way I would like them. First off, their pajama light blue is everywhere. Thick ringer collar and cuffs in the pajama light blue, shoulder stripes are navy. So there’s the hoops, and without pulling out the ruler, they look to be that the pajama blue stripes are a ratio of twice the thickness of the navy stripes. I don’t personally like that in hoops or stripes, but we need to have space for sponsors I guess. And I’m glad that whatever the Victory Project could reconstitute the bottom half of the defunct Alliance of American Football.

GRADE : C+


Toronto FC (Primary)

MLSSoccer.com

JPN : I came, I saw, I bought the t-shirt. Fabulous, and Bill Manning’s favourite. Yes, the 75 per cent collar is weird, but wear a black t-shirt underneath and Bob’s (Bill’s?) your uncle.

GRADE : A+

MH : Ahhhhhhhhhh, much better than the previous kit. Like massive magnitudes better. Onyx cuffs, shoulder stripes and whatever two ideas that collar is supposed be (not mad at it, looks odd). The front has a personality devoid of the last offering. Diagonal stripes of varying thicknesses to create shapes/visual effects that I’m not 100 per cent certain what it’s supposed to be, but I’m good. I dig it. I don’t need it to be anything except nice, which this is. Would purchase.

GRADE : A


Vancouver Whitecaps FC (Primary)

MLSSoccer.com

JPN : Why mess with a good thing? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Ladies and Gents, your new/old Whitecaps kit. I’m not being mean. This is great, even if it pushes no envelopes.

GRADE : A

MH : If you think this looks like the previous home kit, you wouldn’t be far off. Predominantly white kit with the navy solid band across the chest, a thin light blue stripe directly above and below. Cuffs have the same thin light blue-thick navy-thin light blue pattern, which looks classy, ringer collar is navy with a thin light blue, navy shoulder stripes. The hoop wrapping around the back is absent from this offering, which was super nice, but it will have navy letters and red numbers, which is interesting to see two different colours in a font, but the red font on the last offering was what made the kit perfect. Not as good as the last one but still excellent.

GRADE : A-


So there it is, a roundup of all the 2021 MLS kits! Do you have a favourite? Which ones do you hate with the power of a thousand suns? Let’s discuss!