U.S. Jersey History

USMNT Jersey 1984-2009

We’re taking a look at the USA men’s soccer jerseys of the last 25 or so years, not only to provide a bit of history, but also as a bit of a refresher before looking toward the future of the USA’s kit. My main complaint about the USA kit is that there’s no continuity. Unlike most national team kits, the design has changed drastically each time adidas or Nike has unveiled their latest designs. Whether it’s red, white, or blue, stripes, sashes or denim, you’ll see below that the designs are all over place. I know that I’m nowhere near the first to say this, but I really think that in order to develop a team identity, we need to have a consistent template for (at least) the home jersey.

I’ve always favored the red jerseys in general. It’s good, bright color for fans to wear. Really, I’d rather have it as our home color, but US Soccer seems hung up on having white home jerseys (which have always seemed kind of bland to me). I guess it’s fitting that the USA would wear whites at home since it’s the traditional home color in most American sports.

Below, we’ve got images of every home and away kit since 1984. I’ve offered a brief commentary and grade for each shirt. Obviously, I’m not attempting to be objective in any way. If you disagree, make it known down in the comments section or in the poll at the end of the post.

Alright, let’s get started….

1984 HOME

This one is pretty good. The diagonal stripes are a bit of a nod to the classic 1950s USA jersey’s blue sash, though knowing adidas, that’s probably just a coincidence. No real badge here, just “USA.” It’s funny that the only image I could find of this jersey is of England’s Gary Lineker.

GRADE: B+

1984 AWAY

Basically the same as the home shirt, but in red. Unless I am mistaken, this is the last time the U.S. didn’t have a white jersey option. Interesting NASL-style logo that we won’t see again (different than the home jersey). Side note–you don’t see shorts cut like that any more, do ya?

GRADE: B+

1988 HOME

This one is a nice, classic adidas design. No real problems with it, it’s just not that distinctive. There’s a new round badge on this one. This badge sticks around for a few years. Sometimes, I think that I may prefer this badge to the current one.

GRADE: B

1988 AWAY

We’ve got a royal blue away shirt this time out. This one is cool in that 80s adidas way–if they offered it for sale as a throwback I’d probably pick one up, but when it really comes down to it, I don’t think that I’d want that pattern or color on our new away jerseys.

GRADE: B

1990 HOME

Not into the giant v-neck, but at least they’re trying to do something kind of distinctive with the blue shoulder/sleeve thing, which they’ve kind of carried over from the 1988 model. Like the last one, nothing all that wrong with this, but somewhat bland in my opinion.

GRADE: B

1990 AWAY

The same as the home, but in blue. Seeing this makes me glad that we’ve since moved from royal to navy blue.

GRADE: B-

1992 HOME

When this was the current kit, I really liked this design. Simple, but bold. I can’t say that I’m still a fan of the giant three stripes. It feels boring and dated to me. Notice that we’ve reached a low point with the badge/logo. No badge at all really, we’re just left with that flying ball logo. I must say that I like that font and color scheme for the numbers.

GRADE: C+

1992 AWAY

My opinion is the same as the home, but it’s even less interesting in two colors.

GRADE: C

1994 HOME

This was the low point in US jersey history…probably in the history of soccer jerseys in general. I really feel like this might be the ugliest jersey I’ve ever seen. Yes, I’m taking the 1998 Mexico jersey, the Cameroon unitard, and various camouflage jerseys into consideration. Who thought up this idea? To think that entire teams of people signed off on this is baffling. I mean, I get it. Denim = Americanness. Such a shame that we had to wear these during a good World Cup run. Notice that this was the last jersey we saw from Adidas.

GRADE: F-

1994 AWAY

This is an interesting one. I almost really like it. In fact, I really like the idea of having red stripes on our home jersey. Seems fitting. The one thing that keeps this from being great is the dizzying waviness of the lines. Even though you can’t see it that much when the jersey is on the field, it still bothers me.

GRADE: B

1995 HOME

First Nike kit and I think they got it right. The first thing Nike did was change the color palette, a small but important change. Both the red and blue are darker than on previous jerseys (other than 94 away). This is a good move for two reasons–1) These are actually the colors on our flag (dark red and navy blue, as opposed to bright red and royal blue). 2) These colors look better on a jersey than the colors adidas had been using. We’ve also got a nice design element–the wide horizontal stripe in the center–that can set our jersey apart from many of the others on the international stage. Great jersey. One of my favorites. I’d like to see something like this in the future.

GRADE: A-

1995 AWAY

Same as above. I think I prefer the blue shirt to the white one. Should have been the home shirt. The only flaw with this design was that the replica looked odd since the badge was moved to the center, where the number would normally go.

GRADE: A

1995 THIRD

You didn’t think they could screw this one up, did ya? This isn’t terrible. A light blue third jersey isn’t a bad idea, but I just don’t dig the shade they used. Pretty drab.

GRADE: B

1998 HOME

Other than the fact that this one reminds me of a last place finish at France 98, it’s pretty nice. Nike has continued the horizontal band element, this time making it thinner and moving it a bit higher.

GRADE: B+

1998 AWAY

We get a red away shirt for the first time since 1984, and I think it’s great. I prefer this to the home version. As I said before, if I were designing the jerseys, I’d make red the home color. I think that it stands out more and is already the color most fans wear to the matches.

GRADE: A-

2000 HOME

A solid effort, but pretty bland. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with it…but there’s nothing distinctive.

GRADE: B

2000 AWAY

Same as the home. Not much to say, but once again I prefer the red version.

GRADE: B

2002 HOME

I have to try to separate this one from the success of the 2002 World Cup. It’s a pretty nice shirt, though I have always thought of it as a ripoff of the 1998 England home jersey. Even so, it’s a classy effort.

GRADE: B+

2002 AWAY

Not bad, but kinda bland. Without the collar and third color of its home counterpart, I find it lacking.

GRADE: B

2003 THIRD

I think that this one is fantastic. A near replica of the jersey worn at the 1950 world cup. I believe the only major difference is that the sash is blue rather than red. It’s just a shame that this wasn’t worn more often.

GRADE: A

2004 HOME

I put this one in the same boat as the 2000 model–a solid effort, but fairly unremarkable. My main memory of this was that nearly every Nike-outfitted team had this look that year.

GRADE: B

2004 AWAY

See above.

GRADE: B

2004 THIRD

This one is even more of a throwback than the 2003 third jersey, with a red stripe. Only flaw was the odd 3/4 length sleeves.

GRADE: A-

2006 HOME

I really liked this one when it came out, picking up a shirt with Beasley 17 on the back (great choice, eh?). But in hindsight, I’m not as into it as I once was. The stripe is a nice nod to the sash of the 1950 shirt, but it looks a bit too Richard Petty to me–like a racing shirt or something.

GRADE: B+

2006 AWAY

Almost a replica of the 1995 away shirt, so I’ll keep it short. Great design and an additional thumbs up for not being identical to the 06 home jersey but in different colors. This just serves as a reminder of what a good look we had back in 95.

GRADE: A

2006 THIRD

This might be my favorite jersey of the lot. I only wish that I’d picked one up when they were for sale. Great update of the classic U.S. jersey design. And in red, no less. I’d love it if our home jerseys looked like this (but maybe with an updated badge). Shame they weren’t around for long. How many times did they wear this? Once? Twice?

GRADE: A+

2007 THIRD

I’ve gone back and forth on this one. Unlike a lot of fans, I don’t mind the pinstripes. They worked well on the new PSG home and Arsenal away shirts. It’s strange because it’s very similar to the 1980 France home shirt, which I like. But something is slightly off. Maybe it’s the shade of blue, it seems very bright.

GRADE: B

2008 HOME

I wasn’t a fan of this design when it first came out, but it has grown on me. It’s a good, clean, distinctive design. My main issue here is the total lack of continuity. If Nike wanted to go with hoops from here on out, I think that I could live with it. It’s just that I know that the 2010 model won’t resemble this at all.

GRADE: B+

2008 AWAY

As with the home shirt, I wasn’t into this when it came out, but it too has grown on me. My first reaction was that graphite (or charcoal or whatever they’re calling it) is neither in the flag nor has it ever been used in any U.S. kit I’ve ever seen. Can’t we stick with one color for the away jersey? But you know what? It looks pretty sharp on the field. It’s pretty distinctive. Like the home shirt, I’d feel a lot better about it if I knew we were going to be wearing black away shirts from here on out. I’d never really considered it before, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea.

GRADE: B+

2010 HOME

Well, I asked for a sash and I got it. I do wish that it were in blue or red, but I think the gray looks good (and I think it maintains some continuity from the 2008 home). I prefer the sash style on the Don’t Tread jersey, but I still think it’s a classy effort. Now watch Nike ditch the sash next time around for something completely different.

GRADE: A-

2010 AWAY

I always hope for a red away jersey, but I think we all know that it’s not happening anytime soon. Doesn’t really matter, as I think that this is a great jersey anyway. Definitely prefer it to the home. Hope Nike sticks with this theme for a while.

GRADE: A