Better know a kit: A history of the modern U.S. soccer jersey

by archiegemmill on July 28, 2011

in U.S. Jersey History,Uniforms

Post image for Better know a kit: A history of the modern U.S. soccer jersey
[This retrospective originally ran last year. We recently updated some of the information and added some missing jerseys, so we thought we'd post it again.]

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 nearly 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.

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.”

GRADE: B+

1984 AWAY

Basically the same as the home shirt, but in blue. It’s funny that the only image I could find of this jersey is of England’s Gary Lineker.

GRADE: B+

1984 THIRD

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+

1986 HOME

These are the jerseys we would have worn at the 1986 World Cup. Not surprisingly, they look like most of the adidas jerseys from that year. Clean and classy, but not really something to write home about. The pattern in the white is kind of nice. 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

1986 AWAY

Same thing as the home version. Good, not great. I like the darker blue, but maybe that’s just the photo.

GRADE: B

1988 HOME

This one is a nice, classic adidas design. No real problems with it, it’s just not that distinctive.

GRADE: B

1988 AWAY

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-

1992 THIRD

I’m not totally sure if this is a 3rd jersey, but my best guess is 1992, and it differs from the other two. I’m not sure what to make of this one. Like I said above, I’m really not a fan of this era of adidas jerseys. I’ll give them credit for making it more interesting than the away, but I can’t say it’s any less ugly.

GRADE: C

1994 HOME

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

1994 AWAY

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-

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

1996 HOME?

I’ll be honest, I have no recollection of this jersey. The site I found it on has it listed as a 1996 home. I guess that I’ll go with that, even though it looks very similar to many MLS jerseys from 97/98. This isn’t offensive in any way, but I’m just not that into it. Looks lke what would happen if the 1998 home and 2008 home had a love child.

GRADE: C

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-

2011 THIRD

This is the best version of this edition of the national team jersey. I really wish this was the home jersey. Not quite as good as the 2006 third, but this is up there near the top.

GRADE: A

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Scott May 3, 2010 at 12:47 pm

I think at least since 1988 there has been decent continuity with the exception of 1994. For just about every year we have had white at home and most of the time blue as away, and sometimes red. The design of the jersey changes but the design of every country’s jersey change every couple of years. Look at France they have had blue, but the design is always very different. Same with Italy, Germany, Spain, and many others. I think we have just as much continuity as anybody else.

archiegemmill May 3, 2010 at 2:46 pm

I’ll concede that Germany and France’s designs change slightly from jersey to jersey. Germany always wears a solid white, but occasionally a black band or something like that will appear. France is always in blue, but they have a habit of adding odd little stripes occasionally.

Other than those, I’d argue that most national teams have much more consistent home jerseys than the US. Yes, sometimes there will be stripes on the sleeves, color blocks under the arms, different collars, etc, but that’s not what I’m referring to when asking the US for a little consistency. I know some elements will change, but most nations are very consistent with their design from year to year. Some examples:

Italy: solid blue
England: solid white
Spain: solid red
Holland: solid orange
Argentina: white/light blue stripes
Peru: white w/red sash
Brazil: solid yellow

I could go on…

If you look at the recent US jerseys (even if you discard 1994), I’d argue that even though they are all mostly white, you have a number of motifs–solid white, large horizontal band across center, sash, large vertical stripe, light gray hoops.

Most international teams have a consistent distinctive away kit as well, though it seems more flexible. As far as our kits go, I’d argue that most teams are pretty consistent, keeping with one or two options. Personally, I like the red aways for the US, so I’d like them to stick with that, but it’s not really a big deal to me.

If some people want variety, I totally understand that. I just think we could use some more consistency. Some people want to buy a completely different jersey every two years, which is fine, but I think you can still tweak the jersey designs in interesting ways (see Holland) on a regular basis even if you have a consistent motif.

Edgar Zuniga May 11, 2010 at 1:23 pm

Cool article. I appreciate the work you put into collecting all the pics and writing stuff about them. Personally, I prefer the red ’98 jersey. Although, I know when I get the new blue away, that will become my fav.

City May 28, 2010 at 1:13 pm

Are there any pictures of US shirts from the 70′s?

Gaucho June 5, 2010 at 8:48 pm

Awesome work!
I have:
White 1992
Both 1994 (got em both for 50u$s)
White 1998
White 2002
and Blue 2006 but it doesn’t have the space for the number. It’s Made in Brazil and bought it from an official store. Saw any of these anywhere else? I can send a pic if you want.

I prefer dark blue for away. Just don’t red much. I live in Argentina and it’s my fav team nemesis shirt colour (Racing/Independiente)

Salutes and let’s go USA!

conradburry June 9, 2010 at 12:06 pm

Well done, sir…im very impressed with the extensive nature of this endeavor. Question for ya: Do you know of anywhere that has a history of the US badge in recent history? I’m working on a concept for a new badge and would like history of the previous versions to inform some of the design decisions I am making…thanks for any guidance you may be able to give me.

Go Yanks!

Burko June 10, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Anyone know of any websites (other than ebay) to pick up one of the old styles? Particularly like the 2008 away, 2003 third, 2000 home.

Eric June 27, 2010 at 10:07 pm

I actually wrote this on my facebook today:

“US needs a cool team home jersey. Not just white. Something that can become traditional, cool, and trendy. Something that will always be identified as US soccer (ie. the Argentina sky blue and white stripes, or Brazilian yellow, Mexican green). A marketing strategy to develop a sense of awareness for soccer. (And yes I know US soccer is not to the point of Argentina or Brazil.)”

So yes I completely agree with you on having a red or blue, basically something besides white as the home jersey…don’t like the new sashes though, especially on the blue jerseys. Anyway thanks for doing this!

B.J. Hoch June 28, 2010 at 6:58 am

I aggree the jersey should have an instant idenity logo.
Does anyone know the history of soccer? Where was the first known soccer game. It bugs me ,who and where and if possible when.
thank you, B.J.

Eric June 28, 2010 at 1:54 pm
Nick July 16, 2010 at 10:16 am

Gaucho – Like you I’ve amassed a collection:
1996 White
1998 White
2002 White – Sanneh #22 printing
2004 White – Onyewu #22 printing
2006 White – McBride #20 printing
2008 White – Davies #9 printing

Burko – a good site to check is http://www.classicfootballshirts.co.uk and go to the International portion of the site. They don’t have the ones you’re specifically looking for (they have the 2000 Home) but they’re getting new stuff in and take requests.

Coach Dayley December 11, 2010 at 1:38 am

It seems that Nike really got it right, right off the bat. I’m not a Nike fan, but they have made some good kids more often then not. I hope they can stay away from the “all National Kits we make are the same just in that countries colors” boat, as that was pretty lame, ie 2002 & 2004. I really like the sash, I hope they keep it around, maybe Red with Blue on the edges. And I think it has become one of the regulars when you see a white National Team Jersey I really only thing of the USA, England, and Germany. With the addition of a Red Sash high lighted in Blue it would be something that would designate the RED WHITE AND BLUE. And with regards to the Away Kit, I think they should alternate Blue one model and Red the next. Although they should try to stick with the Old Glory colors as much as possible.

Great info and great site, its is cool to look back on these old jerseys and remember those times. I will have to admit, I did like the 1994 Red & White it was really a trip for the eyes, and maybe could have been a good way to mess with the other teams eyes. But the Blue Stars & Denim idea was possibly the worst of all time.

Regarding the US Soccer logo, I really like the US Soccer Shield, and hope it stays around, I’ve really grown up with that being part of the modern USA Jersey. I think the one used in the 2004 kit right in the center is where it should stay, not to big not to small and right in the center.

Thanks for compiling all the data, hope to see our USA Teams continue to get better as we progress.

chris March 28, 2011 at 12:26 pm

I just wanted to finally comment, after using this site for reference for the last year or so (both here and at the old address) to help determine if jerseys on ebay are fakes or not. It is quite the resource, so thank you very much for posting!

I was hoping you could update to include the new third jersey. (Yes, I know I’m asking for it pretty soon after it was released…I’m sure an edit is in the works.)

While you are editing, I have a question about the ’94 denim jersey. I was able to score one of these on ebay for about $35 shipped (they usually go for somewhere north of $100). It was a buy it now that I ran across just an hour after being posted. The jersey that I received has the stars on the right sleeve, which makes sense design-wise, and is consistent with photos from that era (http://tinyurl.com/denimusjersey). I’ve only seen a couple this way on ebay, and have mostly seen one with the stars on the left sleeve. Any idea why that is and what the difference could be? The jersey that I have (with the stars on the right sleeve) seems to be a genuine jersey, though I can’t speak to it being authentic vs. replica. Just wondering if you might have any more info.

Again, thanks for this post. It’s an awesome tool for me.

malarimer May 1, 2011 at 3:08 pm

Hey Chris,

Thanks for the comment. We’ll be updating the jersey history in the near future. As you may have noticed, we haven’t been posting much lately, but we’re trying to get back in the swing of things.

I have no idea why our version of the 1994 jersey has the stars on the left sleeve, but I’ll look into it. If it turns out it’s a replica or something, we’ll change the photo on the post.

Frank July 6, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Hey something on the 1994 Kits, You have them mixed up, the “denim kit” is actually the away jersey and the red wavy stripes is the home jersey. I found a couple sites that make this out to be true here is one of them

http://soccernet.espn.go.com/world-cup/story/_/page/worldcup101-03082010/ce/us/best-world-cup-jerseys-all-time?cc=5901&ver=us

archiegemmill July 28, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Frank, thanks for pointing that out. We’ve just made the change, along with some new additions to the list.

Monty Hisaw August 26, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Thanks for a great website…I disagree with the Mexico 1998 Jersey, that is the best jersey ever :-) Other than that you did an awesome job. It would be nice if you set classified section for people to sell there old jerseys. I think the collectors would appreciate it.

Frank October 27, 2011 at 9:23 pm

Hey again, I was on ebay looking for some USA jerseys and I found this one from the 80′s supposedly and I want to buy it but I cant tell if it was an actual jersey that the team wore or is it some like fan jersey here is the link

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=230495889222

Ben November 2, 2011 at 5:09 pm

Thanks a lot for that overview.

some awesome and awful designs for sure.

the USA 94 (Denim) Away is one of my fave jerseys of all time (didn’t like the shorts/socks that went with it though) + the 2010 away.

Like the 2003 and 2004 third ones too.

Hope you keep that page updated.

archiegemmill November 2, 2011 at 5:13 pm

Frank–my guess is that it’s some sort of bootleg jersey. I’ve never seen it before, and it has weird faux-adidas stripes on the the shoulder.

ralph November 8, 2011 at 7:26 am

In my opinion, The white kit looks very cool on USA. It is almost identitical to the england home kit, but it looks alot better for the USA because the flag has blue while the english flag dosen’t. For the away kit, I believe dark blue is the best color to use because it is similar to the fact that 300 years ago, or whatever, in the American revoltion, the continental army used blue in their uniform while britain used red.

Ryan December 17, 2011 at 9:26 am

I don’t understand why everyone likes the red jersey so much. Out of the three latest, the red is by far the ugliest and it is not traditional. I say keep red as our third kit. I prefer the white adorned with navy & red, with navy shorts and white socks for home. That is USA I hate that we think we need to change to red because fans choose to wear red on the stands. I’ve always fancied the idea that we wear white at home like England, but navy on the road while they were red on the road (similar to military uniforms during the revolution.)

Foul Free Kick March 28, 2012 at 8:28 pm

Sweet post – I just bought the newest jersey (and hoping it’s not too tight ha!)

Max May 13, 2012 at 10:46 am

Anyone know where I can purchase a legit 2008 home jersey (white with thin red stripes)?

Jason Thyrion June 3, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Here’s a question; would you support a ‘Throwback’ of the ’94 Kit if the denim was changed to a solid blue color, let alone navy?

SilverRey June 7, 2012 at 7:46 pm
bk June 28, 2012 at 9:12 pm

I need a 2003 3rd kit, any size, that is the only thing i’m missing from 1992 til now…here is a slightly older pic before i got some of the older stuff and the two current kits…but from 92 til now i’m solid…except for that kit.

http://s18.postimage.org/8f7k7copz/usacollection.jpg

bradykuhn@gmail.com…get at me…I have plenty to trade.

Fan July 31, 2012 at 8:37 pm

I believe they should incorporate the stars on the shoulders and around the collar on a henley style jersey (French 2012 style). Clean white base jersey. Blue shoulders and collar with symmetric white stars on them. Three red stripes from half of sleeve to the end. Also line the sleeve and torso openings with red.

Also need to remove that ugly US Soccer badge and use the Great Seal of the United States. E pluribus unum. And on the back of the neck collar it should say in old english style, “Stars and Stripes”.

I think I just incorporated all the elements of the USA flag plus the great seal.

Frank August 10, 2012 at 6:00 pm

I think you should give a little more credit to the 2004 third kit, thats an exact replica of the jersey that beat England 1-0 in the World Cup. In my opinion thats an A+++++++++++++

Nick VB August 17, 2012 at 10:01 pm

hey there. I am trying to get USSF to change the logo for the U.S.A. National teams!
http://www.facebook.com/ChangeTheUsaSoccerLogo

TimeFrost October 10, 2012 at 10:40 pm

I agree with Frank, you should give more recognition to the 2004 third kit. Its the most accurate jersey Nike has made to honor the USA team that defeated England in 1950. I agree that the 2006 third jersey is nice but the 2004 third jersey takes the cake, I dont think it should be an A- but an A+.

Trouble October 28, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Thanks for this page!!

I’d like to know your thoughts on the the new jerseys.

The hoops are growing on me, but the navy throws me. LOVE it with white shorts, but HATE it with navy shorts…too monochromatic, or something.

Pio February 24, 2013 at 5:01 pm

That is quite a selection of USA soccer jerseys. Thanks for sharing all this great pics as well as your opinion on them.

Bryan Vega March 10, 2013 at 8:24 am

Love both sites and I use it to track down USA jerseys to add to my collection. Many of the jerseys that I purchase are through ebay and I was hoping that maybe you guys could do a story on the counterfeit jerseys (What to look for? Where they should be marked down were made from? Any other identifiers to help fans that are looking to buy the jerseys. Appreciate the articles and take care

Bossman75 April 4, 2013 at 6:55 am

2012/13 US REPLICA CENTENNIAL

Very cool post and imagery! Nice to have a bit of USMNT history recorded and commented on.

With it being the Centenary year and having a new jersey to commemorate it, maybe another update is needed?

http://store.nike.com/us/en_us/?l=shop,pdp,ctr-inline/cid-1/pid-653716

xeneize April 11, 2013 at 8:46 pm

hey a while ago i gave you images of the adidas 1986 home and away and now i found a picture of a player wearing the one you put as 1996 HOME? and also a 1995 rare.

Nuthin-Nice July 28, 2013 at 1:01 pm

thanks for your research on this project. i actually found this page looking for a 94 away jersey online so it was funny reading your description bc i think its awesome. def. most distinctive & memorable. if nike had the liscensing & re-released it w/current players it would kill. probably my fav. along w/ current red stripe 2013 home knit. generally i agree alot of forgettable ,dull white /white. though the 90 vneck is hilarious!

Nuthin-Nice July 28, 2013 at 1:04 pm

p.s. crests suck. leave that crap in europe along with flopping

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