There’s only one way to open this year’s fourth (?!) annual WTR MLS Kit Round-up, and that’s with a banger ...
Onyx stans, rejoice? For it is upon us, the return of that shade that makes us all swoon, the colourway of THAT past TFC kit, that is everyone BUT Justin Morrow’s favourite. Yes, it’s true, we have a proper sequel to the 2014/2015 TFC away stripe.
As always, I’m joined by the illustrious Mark Hinkley, who is, in fact, extra illustrious this time around. In case you’ve been hiding under several rocks, this is the same Mark Hinkley that had a hand designing the new TFC kit. So, yes, Sports Fans, expect some scoops to go with the hot takes this year. (And be sure to tune in for our extra long winded podcast/livecast component, hitting your eye and ear holes very soon!)
As we discovered last year, it’s better to split this into two nuggets and go alphabetical, so let’s do that. As always, we’ll each contribute a blurb and a rating.
This is Part 1 - A-L
Join us, we promise not to bite!
ATLANTA UNITED : The 17s Kit (PRIMARY)
JPN (Jeffrey P. Nesker): Oh wow. What a way to start. Simple and classic (for a five-year-old club). If ANY team in MLS needs to double down on reset, it’s got to be ATL, so this tribute to their inaugural home kit hits the sweet spot as they try to rescale the MLS mountaintop. I think my favourite thing about this kit is the perfect 50/50 split between classic (well, five years classic, which is a lot in soccer-years) and screaming new, such as the wordless new Adidas mark, etc.
Still, can’t be a total knockout as we really have seen this one before.
MH (Mark Hinkley): A perfectly nice striped kit. Nothing too complex or elaborate. No hidden meanings in the details, proper use of the gold as trim. Digging the ringer collar where it meets the shoulder panel and continues the ring around the sides of the neck. It’s elegant. This is a solid bit of kit.
AUSTIN FC : Las Voces Kit (PRIMARY)
MH: While my partner here loves it, I do not get it. I know there was a parallel to a Barca kit, pattern-wise, but whatever cleverness of the striping is lost on me. It feels like four designers worked on it, came up with different widths for the striping and the manager said “You all need to work together or you’re fired”. It’s chaos, but not in a pleasant way. The white striping on the shoulders kinda highlights the abstract mess in that it’s more stripes but now another colour.
JPN: Boom. This is transcendent, and it absolutely shouldn’t work. Stripes AND Dazzle Camouflage? What?????!!! In black and SCREAMING NEON MINT GREEN? OK. Good luck holding it together on any broadcast ever (I’m looking at you, Apple, and the 65K cameras you now need to invent on account of this kit). Will it match with anything beyond a sadly discontinued Laura Secord Mint Frosted Chocolate Bar (R.I.P.)? Do I care? I don’t think I care. This is madness and I love it.
CHARLOTTE FC : The Crown Jewel Kit (SECONDARY)
JPN: I’m just going to say it. MLS and Adidas came to play this year. I was a pretty big fan of the Spurs/Arsenal mash-up that was Chralotte’s inaugural home kit, mostly for the LOL’s and the weird way it may me feel inside. This is better. While I’m not sure why it’s purple, I cannot hate a purple shirt (unless it’s that awful TFC/Raptors concept that haunted my timeline for a spell). This is a very nice purple shirt with neon accents that really pop. Not winning any awards, but a solid contender.
MH: The pattern is nice, the colours are too “emergency grocery store birthday cupcakes”. This should be great, but the blue is too deep (I know, its club colour blue, but we can lighten it. I own a Pantone book and I don’t check against it) and it could wash out, an otherwise, fun combination.
CHICAGO FIRE : A Kit For All Jersey (SECONDARY)
MH: Solid first go of the use of the new colours. The chevron and diamond bits scattered about is nice, incorporates the city flag (which are also badge) colours. Navy trim to tidy this all up. A lovely kit, but the obvious gaping space for a shirt sponsor is a bit odd. Would’ve been brilliant if they could’ve inserted a few more flecks just to fill it in, but not be too intrusive to a future sponsor.
JPN: And just as soon, our first mis-step, and I hate that it’s the Fire, they really do deserve some, hell, any, kind of win. But we’re already starting well off the map when the very name of your kit forces MLS to abandon the “kit” suffix in the description for “jersey”, because you’ve gone and put “kit” in the name. Chicago did not get the memo, and then double-dipped the chip. Naming conventions aside - and I’m insane about good naming conventions - so this is exceedingly difficult, it’s actually an alright kit/jersey. It’s white and not boring, so that’s good, and they certainly tried for ... something. I’m just not sure what it is, and back to that naming convention - when is it not “a kit for you”? Any other year I’d have more fawning praise, but it’s a stacked field, and this just ain’t it.
COLORADO RAPIDS : New Day Kit (SECONDARY)
JPN: Like the Chicago Kit/Jersey above, points for doing a white kit that isn’t a boring t-shirt, but these fractal patterns give me hives. I don’t understand it, and I don’t much want to.
MH: Apparently it’s a new day (yes it is!) for Colorado, who went with artist Pat Milbery and gave him freedom with the design and general art direction. While the orange and strange triangles all over look like a futurist/sci-fi/3-day electronic music festival, the giveaway is in the jock tag of the heart gemstone. And with that the kit begins to make some sense. I think the tragedy of this is that there’s a scarf that is PURE BEAUTIFUL ART THAT I WANT that does more for this kit than the kit itself.
GRADE: C+ for the kit, A+ for the scarf
COLUMBUS CREW : VeloCITY Kit (SECONDARY)
MH: The pattern on the kit is not unique to the shirt, but is a part of the stadium seat pattern, it’s shown up as part of the marketing and promotional materials, so it is a part of what they’ve got going on creatively, and I can get behind this.
JPN: “Come to VELOCity! Everything has gone through the “roughen edges” filter! and we do mean everything!”
Honestly? It’s black and yellow and has shapes. It’s nice.
D.C. UNITED : The Cherry Blossom Kit (SECONDARY)
JPN: They couldn’t resist, they just had to do it; a boring white t-shirt as secondary kit. i guess you can’t teach an old template new tricks. I’m astounded this kit rates so highly across the interwebs. To me, it may be the worst of the bunch because it’s just so yawn.
MH: This might have been higher except Olive & York did a charity kit, and while the blue one is perfect, the away one is excellent, which puts this firmly as the 3rd best D.C. cherry blossom kit. The pink is so washed out, that the only way you would know it is a cherry blossom kit is if it were up close. Make it one giant cherry blossom, deepen the pink and you’ve got a winner. This is so dull plus knowing what it could have been makes this an incredible disappointment.
FC CINCINNATI : The River Kit (PRIMARY)
MH: A royal blue and navy kit with orange sleeves should be a winner, but this is off the mark a little. Their colours are so strong, but the sideways water pouring from a bottle (downwards, no? Gravity?) looks... off. They’ve had a string of great home kits, so they’re due for a not-bad-but-not-great one.
JPN: The tradition of good to great WKRP FC kits continues, though I aggressively dislike the faux-marble “sash” along the torso - it sucks. It doesn’t look like a river, it looks like a custom kitchen island in the suburbs.
FC DALLAS : Burn Baby Burn Kit (SECONDARY)
JPN: This is something off the sale rack at Forever 21. The flame motif is perfect, if you hate fun and good design. Brave, but ultimately misguided.
MH: We all need more embracing of soccer history, especially for the originals of MLS. In theory, this should be an easy win, but it’s a white shirt with dulled flamey bits wallpapered over the kit. Could’ve used some more of the red and “old greenish gold” from the original Burn colours to fill it out and still be a white kit. I know the black trim is a nod to the old colours as well, but it would’ve been fun to give the badge the full Burn colour swap treatment. Happy to see the horse show up on the back of the neck though.
INTER MIAMI : La Noche Kit (SECONDARY)
MH: While I like the attempt-ish at a zebra pattern hoop in the shirt, I don’t fully get as to why it was a choice. I still feel this kit could use either more pink or a darker pink (usual complaint with their colours) or even some white. The badge looks great with the white and light pink but it looks like they went full mono on this. Solid use of pink trim, but I’d rather a full pink collar. Or better yet, pink with white trim collars and cuffs. It’s close to a better mark.
JPN: The fact that Inter Miami still haven’t gone full Miami in any of their kits (while other south Florida teams - and Forward Madison - do, on the regular) will never not be utterly hilarious to me. That being said, this one is, like always, pretty close. Sure, it’s almost the identical twin of the new Columbus Crew Stripe, but this one looks so sheer as to be see-through, which is super Miami. Also, cannot hate a black kit. Facts.
LA GALAXY : LA Kit (PRIMARY)
JPN: This is really gauche, lazily named, and an honest to goodness eyesore, but I luuuuuurrrve it. I love the old school LAG colourway making another appearance, and holy hell THIS IS THE NEW PRIMARY KIT? LAG have ditched the whites for 2 years? This is massive.
MH: It is almost unfair how many awesome things LA Galaxy have been able to draw from over the years. While most clubs stay away from it (good) and some tried (Columbus!), LA embracing it has resulted in some winners. The collar and cuffs are fantastically good and the teal does some wonderful work against the yellow and red trim. This is a wonderful kit, definitely top 5.
LAFC : The Smokescreen Kit (PRIMARY)
MH: It’s rare to see such a try-hard idea execute well, but it did. I suppose it’s tough to get a smoke effect (which often tends to be lighter colours) pop on a light creamy pea soup colour choice here. I want to not like it, but it is decent. I do like the diagonal striping through the smoke to give the whole presentation some much needed character.
JPN: Nope, but also Yup. Nope because more vague marble motifs playing the role of “smoke”. Yup because that shade is all kinds of dope and this guy is a sucker for a big bold sans-serif shirt sponsor.
Phew, that’s a bow tied on the first 12 kits of our round-up.
This year’s crop is pretty brilliant. Aside from a few sad leftovers of the “White shirt, ho cares?” era in MLS kit history, the lion’s share are bold, colourful, and inspired. There are a few solid contenders for all-timers in here. This is a good thing.
Obviously, we’re getting to Tee-Eff-Cee in Part 2, so watch this space.
What do you think of our reviews? Agree? The other one? Let us know in the comments, and again, keep your eyes/ears/kit/jersey peeled for a special episode of Toronto ‘til I Die wherein Mark and I discuss our ratings.