New fashions: Rating the new MLS uniforms

Sportsnet's James Sharman previews all three Canadian teams—Toronto FC, Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps—ahead of the start of the new MLS season this weekend.

A new Major League Soccer season means new looks for the players.

Long gone are the days when a team kept the same kit for multiple years. The standard used to be at least three years before teams changed the design on their shirts. Now, newer is better, so clubs release a new kit every single year.

This off-season all 20 MLS sides unveiled at least one new kit. The customary practice in MLS is for teams to alternate between changing the home and away kit. This ensures that in a two-year span the club will have completely new uniforms.

Commissioner Don Garber has long vowed that MLS will eventually become a top league in the world. As far as kits go, the MLS is already there. The depth of top quality looking uniforms in comparison to leagues from around the world isn’t that close.

Here’s our breakdown on the top new kits you’ll see in MLS in 2016.

Vancouver has added to arguably the league’s best home kit with the league’s best away strip. The “sea of sky” or “sea-to-sky,” as it has been referred to during the social media buzz after it was launched, incorporates the North Shore Mountains and the Pacific ocean in a daring but fun way.

NYCFC needed a secondary uniform to differentiate them from big brother Manchester City. The new away blues with light blue ripple do just that. The infusion of orange to align them with the Knicks, Islanders, and Mets is a smart choice. The ripple is supposed to symbolize the energy of NYC’s five boroughs.

The Sounders added two new uniforms this off-season. They added blue to the sleeves of their primary green KIT. They also added a Puget Sound inspired third kit in “Pacific blue.” Their all white uniform with green trim remains unchanged. I’m not a huge fan of the baby blue shorts that accompany the third jersey, but the shirt alone with the tethered baby blue embedded in to the dark blue top makes this uniform top class.

The “Rose City red” away uniforms embrace Portland’s traditional colours in a way you’d hoped the Timbers would have from the outset. The gold star above the crest commemorates their MLS Cup from last season. The best part is the thorn detailing on the shaded red and black hoop that extends to the bottom of the back of the uniform.

This certainly is the most controversial kit in TFC history. History is the operative word as the addition of blue is a nod to the past soccer organizations in the city of Toronto. The blue unites TFC with the Blue Jays, Leafs, and their BMO roommates the Argos as it utilizes the colours in the Toronto city flag. It is also the primary colour of the club’s two Canadian rivals in MLS, which has many supporters up in arms. The sad part of this jersey is that its presence eliminates TFC’s Onyx alternate, which was not just the best uniform in the history of the club but arguably the league. Judge solely on its merits alone the new whites are clean, but strong and much better than the boring home reds.

It is great when a sponsor’s logo works with the rest of the uniform, but it is disastrous when it takes away from the outfit. That is the case with the Philadelphia Union. Nothing against Bimbo, but the colours and font of their logo don’t scream Philadelphia Union. The logo that does work is the Union’s crest, which is one of the best in the league. The gold stripe remains, but now is done with a snakeskin pattern, which works in from the crest to the body of the gold on blue uniform and offers a subtle look. The addition of more gold is a nice development.

Their all navy blue third kit goes well with their baby blue primary jersey and all white alternate kit. The pinstripes are a nice touch, as is the silver sponsor name and numbers. The best detail is the two button Henley collar, something we are seeing less in uniforms now built more for performance than for style. The horizontal stripes come from the look used in the Kansas City Wizards old uniforms. The two-tone blue of the stripes on the jersey is carried over into the socks to tie the top and bottom of the uniform together.

This is the best home kit in the history of FC Dallas. The pinstripe hoops give some pop to the already fun modern red colour. The two-tone mono red is also incorporated in the socks that read “FCD.” The uniforms match the club’s preferred style of play: safe, pragmatic, organized.

Remember all of the great moments of Dwayne De Rosario celebrating goals in the iconic Houston Dynamo white uniforms? Those are now far in the past as Houston has jumped into the new generation with a progressive black kit. Black has been a part of the club’s colour scheme based off of their crest, but now they’ve gone all in with a darker look. The multiple shades of orange on the chevron at the front of the shirt are a great addition, as is the Texas flag on the left hip.

The two colour horizontal sash that splits the uniform is the distinguishing mark on the Galaxy’s new home kit. The Herbalife sponsored logo has been updated and to me it looks a bit bigger than past uniforms. The “This is LA” on the left front hip of the shirt makes it clear the Galaxy claim to be the biggest club is California’s biggest city.

New England changed their primary uniform, which unlike most MLS teams they often wear away from home when they can. The American revolutionary era is what inspired the alternating red and white vertical lines that split the middle of the jersey. The haters feel the uniform is an Adidas version of PSG’s home kit. The design concept is nice but it still feels like the jersey is missing some secondary detailing to make it stand out.

Chicago was the first team to embrace the mono red well before it became a fad. Now they are going back to the colour they originally made famous. Their primary kit is now red, instead of blue with a white hoop, to break up the head to toe all red look. I love the fireman’s tools on the socks—yet another homage to the city’s historic fire department. The white band across the front was also brought back after ditching it the last four years. The shirt sponsorship changes from Quaker to Valspar.

I get that historically DC have had an all black kit but this uniform is very dark. I’d hate to wear it in the summer heat. It could have used a pop of colour to brighten it up. They started by adding white accents on the collars of the sleeves to go with the previous red, but they should have gone further. The ghosted matte black vertical sections break it up a bit and make it less harsh. The crest has been updated for the first time since 1998, adding wings and a new font to the previous club crest.

For the second year in a row San Jose has decided to tamper with its road uniform. The Earthquakes’ home and away kits are uninspiring at best. The red stripe down the side and splitting the crest leading to “SJ 74” at the bottom of a shirt is a nice touch. The red sleeves give the uniform needed symmetry. Overall, though, the uniform looks like a training top for Croatia. Notice Sutter Health is the official shirt sponsor. With San Jose now selling shirt rights for the first time all 20 MLS teams have a uniform sponsor.

One thing we’ve seen in the new Adidas uniforms is moving the three stripes from the shoulders to the sides. The Rapids are the best example of a team where the change in stripe geography worked. However, the uniform doesn’t offer much more stimulating details. The colours are both very traditional, and don’t sync with the team’s away kit—blue, yellow, and red to match the state flag. The other issue is their crest seems out of proportion and doesn’t tell you much of a story about the club or the city it represents.

An addition of gold on the sleeves is the main change to the Red Bulls’ away kit. It is the new movement in MLS to have accented sleeves on your road uniform. Now the Red Bulls have coloured accented sleeves both home and away. Unlike the home uniforms Red is not a dominant colour. The ghosted pinstripes make the look a bit more dynamic. Inside the neck, a shield of the New York MetroStars pays tribute to the MLS club New Yorkers first came to know and love.

After being in red on red for five straight years, Real is going back to the traditional red tops and cobalt blue shorts. This is another uniform where the stripes from the shoulders have been moved to the midriff. The previous gold sleeves and gold streak across the chest has been abandoned for a simpler, but yawn worthy uniform. The subtle pinstripes are a welcome addition, though.

What I like about this kit is the floral emblems by the bottom hem that pay tribute to the region’s first European settlers. Montreal has taken their historical black and blue vertical block stripes and promoted the look from a third kit option in 2013 to their primary home look. They’ve cut them up with a simpler and thinner white pinstripe, which is a nice touch. However, the uniform ultimately looks like it was designed by simply googling “soccer uniform.” Nothing about them is overly special in a league full of unique kits. A more interesting kit should represent a vibrant city such as Montreal.

Why does Orlando need to change kits? They’ve been around for one season. It seems silly to alter their away kit when it is impossible to have already grown tired of them. The necks have been changed to their away whites as well as an addition of purple sleeves. The best part of the uniform is the 3D lion in the team crest.

It is musical chairs as far as kits go for the Crew. The old black away kit becomes the primary look. Gone are the all yellow uniforms for which the club was known. Instead, there is a horizontal pinstriped white, yellow, cyan and red number. The Crew has rivaled TFC in fan backlash this season with their new away kit. The new look is supposed to represent the city flag with the team’s crest on one side and city seal on the inside. It doesn’t fit with the brand the team has built over time. The other issue is although none of the colours independently are bad—they simply don’t work in tandem.

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