While we take a break from Major League Soccer and all sports during this social distancing era we thought it was the perfect time to reflect on 25 seasons of MLS kits. After scouring blogs and random websites, we are pretty sure this is the most comprehensive and extensive list of this kind anywhere on the internet, so, you’re welcome. We have no doubt that this will be controversial and that fans from Toronto to Los Angeles will take issues with our choices. We welcome your feedback, criticism, outrage, and indignation. Let us hear it on any of our platforms.
The list will be ordered chronologically, from 1996 to the current season of 2020. As many of these strips were used for multiple seasons we have listed them by their debut year. We have kits from almost every manufacturer that has contributed to MLS(sorry Atletica and Reebok, you didn’t make the cut). We also tried to get representation from as many teams as possible(sorry Toronto, Salt Lake, Cincinnati, and Miami you didn’t make the cut). Without further ado here’s the list.
1996 DC United Primary Kit
The kit worn by the first dynasty in MLS history. The black kit from adidas with three horizontal stripes across the midsection was understated in the heyday of outrageous templates from the other original 10 squads. This kit is rare in the annuls of MLS in that it is truly one-of-a-kind. No other team has sported the same template or design then or since.
1996 Kansas City Wizards Primary Kit
Our second kit from the inaugural season of MLS and it also comes from the brand with three stripes. Don’t get us wrong we loved the templates, and colorways from Nike used by the Galaxy, Clash, Metro Stars, Mutiny, and Burn but seeing as how they were all basically the same, it would hard to pick one to favor over the truly unique designs from adidas. The early Kansas City Wizard kits are polarizing but the diagonal rainbow wave contrasted against the unmistakable Kansas City blue is an iconic look that Sporting KC should not be afraid to retro.
1997 Dallas Burn Primary Kit
I know I just dissed the lack of variety in the early Nike kits but even with the template restrictions, Nike managed to design some pretty slick gear. The Dallas Burn nailed it with their Red primary kits with thin black hoops that were perfectly accented with Wasabi green strips. Nike took inspiration from other American professional sports throwing a huge Dallas Burn mustang logo as well as the player number on the front of the shirt. I don’t know why FC Dallas ditched this colorway, it was one of the sickest and most unique in MLS history.
1998 Chicago Fire Primary Kit
The Nike designed shirt is solid—navy blue with a large white hoop and the FIRE wordmark across the chest—but this kit gets included on our list for the history and story behind it as much as anything else. One of the first expansion teams the Chicago Fire went on to win the MLS Cup and US Open Cup in their first season under the guidance of Bob Bradley. Also, this kit was never generally sold to the public so good luck getting your hands on one of these bad boys from the Fire’s epic first campaign.
1999 Tampa Bay Mutiny Primary
Another standard Nike kit from the late 90s but the now-defunct Tampa Bay Mutiny had to be included on the list for a couple of reasons. First, Carlos Valderrama and his beautiful mane made any kit look good. Second, from a design standpoint, the Mutiny clearly had an identity crisis. Can anybody tell me how a bat crest and a digital block font straight out of retro computer games are representative of a mutiny? When most hear the word mutiny they probably think pirates and seafaring ships. I suppose Nike wanted to defy logic and come up with something eclectic and iconoclastic—mission accomplished. Lastly, the colorway is definitely on point. I’ll take a number 10 Valderrama for anyone who wants to hook it up.
1999 Colorado Rapids Primary Kit
A rare entry from the brand Kappa on our list. After partnering with PUMA and Reebok Colorado switched over to Italian sportswear manufacturers Kappa for their fourth season. The large diagonal graphic of swooping stripes on the baggy kits scream late 90s soccer fashion. These were much better than the mock turtlenecks and skin-tight shirts Kappa was about to start producing. I remember watching the Galaxy play the Rapids when I was in high school and seeing Marcelo Balboa’s ponytail mimic the wavy graphic on the shirt as he anchored the backline is ingrained in my memory bank.
2000 New York/New Jersey Metrostars Red Kit
The New York/New Jersey Metrostars is quite a mouthful. It is no wonder Red Bull ditched the name when the bought the club. However unfortunate the name was the Metrostars had some nice duds in their first few seasons. The thick vertical red and black bands complemented by the yellow and black logo were classy and bold. The white and black version of this shirt was also strong and the template was one of the less-used designs in the league at the time.
2002 New England Revolution Primary Kit
The one and only kit from England’s Umbro is New England’s primary kit from 02. This kit is an underrated banger. The tonal blue hoops on the shirt and shorts complimented by the red down the sides was a great on-field look for the team that featured Taylor Twellman and Jay Heaps.
2005 Chicago Fire Third Kit
The Chicago Fire kit from PUMA was one of the first uniforms in all of the professional sports to incorporate their hometown’s flag into the design. Sky-blue and white with four six-pointed red stars across the chest, the Fire embraced this look long before the Bulls were trying to rep the Windy City’s flag. A flawless execution from PUMA and the Chicago Fire using arguably the most recognizable and beloved city flag in the United States.
2011 LA Galaxy Alternate Kit
The Punjab Blue kit from the Galaxy is one of the most popular and hard-to-get jerseys ever released by Major League Soccer’s most successful franchise. 2011 really ushered in the Beckham era in the MLS after injury and loan had limited his action early in his MLS stint. He never looked better than rocking the sleeved Tech Fit Alternate kit introduced in 2011. If you have any doubt about its popularity, search eBay and other online retro soccer kit sellers for this shirt. The resale prices are crazy, especially if you want to find a long-sleeve number 23.
2011 Seattle Sounders Primary Kit
The Seattle Sounders have always known exactly who they are and have tapped into the fabric and identity of their community. The home green hue screams Seattle. That shade is almost entirely unique in the landscape of world football. Even their day one sponsors, Microsoft’s XBOX, are the ideal partner. 2011 is when the club really nailed the execution, though. They traded in the bulky “XBOX 360 Live” sponsor logo for the cleaner “XBOX” and employed the Tech Fit silhouette perfectly. I had to put a Sounders home kit on the list and for the reasons I just mentioned 2011’s edition was a clear choice.
2013 Colorado Rapids Alternate Kit
Another kit that fully embraced their home’s flag. The Rapids ditched their team’s colors for the royal blue, red, and yellow of their state flag. The embossed C graphic on the chest was also borrowed from the Colorado state flag and would be used again in their primary shirt and secondary shirts later on. This shirt gets a nod for the creative use of the colors and graphic elements from the source.
2013 LA Galaxy Alternate Kit
If our list is at all accurate, 2013 was the year of fire alternate kits. The Galaxy’s 2013 kit was decided by fans who both submitted designs and voted on the winner. Supporter and designer Carlos Rodriguez said the inspiration for his design was the Los Angeles city flag but we suspect the popularity had more to do with the Rastafarian vibes. The colors paired with the Herbalife sponsor on the chest make this one stoner’s dream shirt. I still need to get my Robbie Keane(the greatest DP in league history, hands down, don’t @ me) shirt in this colorway.
2013 Sporting KC Alternate Kit
Sporting KC consistently has some of the cleanest uniforms in MLS. They rarely have a misstep. But they never did it better than their third kit from 2013. The dark navy collared shirts with the argyle graphic on the chest are about as close to perfection as any MLS shirts have come. This strip is on the shortlist for my all-time favorite. The white and silver argyle kits from a couple of seasons after go hard as well but we have to give props to the original.
2015 New England Revolution Primary Kit
This design is classy and classic with an understated—I am going to be real and interrupt myself—this kit made this list because it looks like a PSG kit. But who better to borrow from than the Parisians who have been dominating the kit game for the last five decades?
2015 Orlando City SC Primary Kit
Nothing outrageous here, just a clean purple shirt with tonal horizontal stripes. Orlando made the bold choice of opting for purple and gold as their primary colors and their Florida community has embraced it. The purple stands are always filled to capacity with an army of purple shirts. Few teams in all of football have the swagger to pull off purple kits but Orlando City SC and their supporters are not the bashful types. Now if they could only produce on the pitch and deliver for the loyal fanatics.
2016 Montreal Impact Primary Kit
L’Impact de Montréal with their beautiful shade of blue borrowed from the provincial flag of Quebec always look sharp on the pitch and the black and blue vertical stripes have become a part of the club’s identity. The details are what set this kit apart from the other Impact strips—details like the silver pin-striping inside the blue and the embossed fleur-de-lys alongside three local flowers in the jock tag. In the 2010s adidas was on point showcasing uniques designs and varied silhouettes to showcase the diverse clubs and communities in MLS and these shirts are definitely a standout from the decade that brought us our most entires into the top 25.
2016 New York Red Bulls Secondary Kit
It definitely makes designs cohesive when the club’s ownership group, kit sponsor, logo and team name all come from Red Bull. Ever since changing their names from the Metrostars to Red Bulls the New York club that plays in New Jersey has been consistent with their look. They never looked better than in 2016 when they used the secondary colors of the Red Bull logo for their away strip. The yellow sleeves against the navy blue shirt give this shirt a Euro vibe that works on all levels. The he embossed pinstriping on the blue portion of the shirt are another nice touch.
2016 Vancouver Whitecaps Secondary Kit
The Vancouver Whitecaps have not reached the heights they have wanted to in their brief MLS history but they have always looked good taking the pitch. The gradient ocean to sky blue geometric pattern was inspired by the geography of the Pacific Northwest for 2016’s secondary strip was definitely a standout. The Caps dubbed the kits “Sea to Sky” inspired by name of the city’s Highway 99. The button henley collar provides a nice finishing touch.
2017 Atlanta United FC Primary Kit
Atlanta United took the league by storm when they jumped on the scene winning the MLS Cup in their second season setting records along the way on the back of the Venezuelan scoring machine Josef Martínez. Atlanta has a swagger unmatched in MLS. I had to include the debut strip from Atlanta United for no other reason than the number of tastemakers we have seen proudly rocking the shirt.
2017 Columbus Crew Primary Kit
The Columbus Crew is one of the original 10 in Major League Soccer. Unlike most of the clubs in MLS, they have never changed their colors. For the past 25 seasons. they have proudly rocked black and yellow. There were a few kits from the Crew that were in the running to make the list including the black secondary kit from 2018 but in the end, went with the yellow kits with the checkered bands down the side from 2017.
2018 DC United Primary Kit
We are suckers for black kits especially when done properly. The black and graphite hoops on the front, the metallic sponsor and crest, and the few red highlights result in one badass shirt. Wayne Rooney also made the ridiculous game-saving slide tackle followed up by an even more ridiculous 3/4 field game-winning assist in extra time against Orlando in 2018 in this shirt. Huge props to DC United for sticking with their OG colors for all 25 seasons.
2018 Houston Dynamo Alternate Kit
Houston first used the “paint it black” them for their alternate kits in 2016 when they debuted black kits with three shades of orange in a chevron pattern across the chest. Those kits were nice but they nailed it in 2018. The gradient orange band across the midsection calls to mind the Astros jerseys Nolan Ryan used to rock. This 2018 kit from the Dynamo looks retro and modern at the same time and is even better with long sleeves. Super-rockable on or off-pitch.
2019 Portland Timbers Primary Kit
I love a good green kit. Portland is a soccer town with some of the most diehard fans in the world, not just the states. The atmosphere at Providence Park is unreal—intimate, loud, and with its very own culture befitting the town that loves keeping it weird. In their short history, the Timbers did not really produce a kit worthy of their amazing fanbase. 2017 they made a step in the right direction with a strong offering for their primary kits but they finally put out the kit that the Rose City deserved in 2019. A clean v-neck silo with green on green hoops, this is definitely the best kit the Timbers have put out in the MLS era.
2020 Minnesota United FC Primary Kit
Before MNUFC ever played a game in MLS they had some of the best looking duds in all of North American professional soccer. The club nicknamed The Loons proudly repped their state bird with a large wing graphic on the shirt and shorts. The fans loved it as did anyone who caught an NASL game where Minnesota United was featured. So when the wings were completely absent for the first three seasons in MLS fans were justifiably more than a little bit disappointed. adidas finally set things right with this year’s primary kit. For this reason, we included this strip even though the 2020 shirt template used by every MLS club is absolutely terrible and very hard to rock off the pitch. The Loons do have the best color scheme in all of professional sport.
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