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The best and worst of the 2021 MLS kits

We have some good, some bad, and a lot of ugly.

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With the dawn of a new MLS season comes the promise of new beginnings and new opportunities. New fans can discover the game for the first time, new memories and magical moments will be made, all of them with the crest of your team donning the athletes.

Since 2005, Adidas, one of the biggest names in global soccer apparel, has been outfitting each MLS team with their jerseys. The investment Adidas has made in the North American game has had a significant impact on the growth of the sport in the U.S. After signing on, Adidas’s reputation in America grew and their array of products have dazzled fans from the beginning.

Which is why we have been confused and disappointed by Adidas over the past few years.

What we have seen is that for some reason, Adidas has decided to recycle old templates from their European clients and dump them to MLS. Beyond that, there have been a slew of white away jerseys that seem to never end.

Last season, teams like Houston, Minnesota, Nashville, NYCFC, and New York Red Bulls launched away kits that didn’t use a white base. However, with the addition of the white home kit for LA Galaxy, the teams in Atlanta, Portland, San Jose and Orlando got the white washed treatment (with Montreal and Toronto getting a white adjacent treatment in gray).

This trend was immediately noticed. Fans were not happy with the results. With Adidas feeling the pressure, the company announced their intentions to launch less white jerseys this year, and explore alternative away jersey colors.

Well if Adidas’s goal was to cut down on white-looking shirts, they failed.

Despite their promise, Adidas released seven new jerseys using either grey or white, bringing the number of jerseys using those colors up to 14.

Some of the white jerseys are not bad. Some teams, like in the case of NYRB or LA Galaxy, use white in their traditional home kit. But this is a continuing problem that we - and many other MLS fans - have noticed. There seems to be a consistent lack of desire for creativity among MLS kits. If it was there, then we wouldn’t be seeing re-used templates, the same colors, or jerseys that look like they slapped logos on t-shirts.

We want to see Adidas do better. We hope Adidas does better. Otherwise, we hope MLS goes to a new model of letting each club sign their own contracts with kit suppliers. We might finally get some diverse and exciting results that way.

With that being said, we’ve compiled a tier list of the best and worst kits in MLS. Here’s what each tier represents:

  • The BEST: pretty self explanatory, the best kit made this year
  • A: among the best kits in the league, deserving of full acclaim
  • B: a unique, creative effort was put forth and seemed to have payed off
  • C: Kits that are creative and bold, but seem to be missing something
  • D: Either the details added don’t work, there’s something missing, it’s bland or all of the above
  • Delete This: The most bland and uninspired kits of the bunch

And while they are clustered in tiers, these are ranked from our favorites to least favorites in order.

Let’s plunge right into this starting at the top.

The Best: LA Galaxy away

This shirt managed to make Adidas’s horrible, stupid, no good, very bad shoulder stripe template look like a part of the shirt that’s meant to be there. That in itself is commendable, but mix in the color combination and the gold tracing the stripes and you have a classic, which is very rare to do in MLS.

A Tier

FC Cincinnati home

The alternating blue and orange pinstripes atop a base of deep blue is a really solid look. It doesn’t have the gorgeous color combo of the Galaxy kit, but it does manage to also incorporate the template elements well, and in a way that actually complements the overall design.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC away

Yes, we did go on a rant about how we dislike the white away kits. However, in this case, Vancouver’s white away kit is a classic and a throwback to an original Whitecaps jersey. The logo that fits perfectly in that blue band in the middle, the sleeves with great cuffs, and the clean collar wrap up this kit which should just be Vancouver’s permanent jersey.

B Tier

New York City FC home

This one has grown on us from the beginning. The mini NYC’s in the stripes seemed tacky at first, but after sitting on it for a while, we’ve grown to love them. Add to it the solid white accents and this is a kit fans of The Pigeons should be proud of.

Seattle Sounders FC away

We allowed ourselves one rant each in an effort to cut down on how long this article was and while we both thought this was a good kit, one of us had an especially strong opinion: “I was fine with this kit being wacky and fun before I saw the release video linking it to Jimi Hendrix. If you’re gonna do a legend, do a legend right. And to me, linking this to Jimi Hendrix, whose style and flair is so much more extravagant than this kit, ruined it for me. If it was called the ‘Purple Haze’ kit, I’d feel better, but they didn’t, and so I must protect Jimi because such a legend deserves better.”

Toronto FC home

In this list, we decided to reward teams that had creative elements that worked well together. Considering Toronto’s away kit has stripes that are similar to this one, we put this in the B tier. Fitting the theme works well for TFC and overall, this kit is one that stands out.

C Tier

Orlando City SC Home

All in all, this is not a bad shirt. We’re not massive fans of gradients unless there’s a design element used to assist the transition and this kit accomplishes that. It’s not fancy or a classic, but it’s still good. The main question we have is why the MLS logo is on both sleeves. While this is a great kit, it’s nothing compared to the effort released by their NWSL sister club, Orlando Pride SC (also, yes, NWSL jerseys being better will be a common and accurate theme on this list):

CF Montreal home

We can debate the rebrand and take points off for it (we will later), but not on this kit. It’s clean, the accents are nice, and the sublimated club logo is bold enough that viewers at home will most likely be able to see it. However, they lose points here for the lack of blue which we’ve come to expect from previous Montreal Impact kits.

Chicago Fire away

It’s a good kit. As ugly as the Fire crest is, the monocolor badge doesn’t look nearly as bad here. The sublimated Chicago stars are a fantastic idea and addition, but they lack red. In fact, this whole kit is sorely missing the color red. Therefore, it’s only the second best soccer kit in Chicago. If you want to see a Chicago flag kit done right, look at the NWSL’s Red Stars:

Portland Timbers FC home

We both really liked the promise this jersey brought, but thought they messed up the execution. The stitch motif down the middle is unique, but the too-chunky collar disrupts it. We also found it weird to include dark green on half the front of the kit, but not on the sleeves. If this went back to the drawing board, we think it’d be a B at minimum.

Atlanta United FC home

This one reminds us of the time Inter Milan decided to ditch their iconic blue and black stripes for a black kit and light blue pinstripes around it. The Five Stripes stuck to their nickname as close as you could, and while this is a great shirt, it seems like it would be much better served as a third kit.

Philadelphia Union away

It’s...unique. The design is wild and gives us 90’s flashbacks. The color of blue and lightning bolt design is wacky in a fun way. However, a darker shade of yellow would have improved this jersey a lot because we can barely see the stripes, league logo, club badge and sponsor in these pictures. We can’t imagine how invisible they will look during a day game.

Chicago Fire home

This shirt makes us sad because they were so close! Imagine just one other complementary design element laid on this shirt. Even a thin red cheesy oversized outline of a flame would have made this shirt so much better given that the base design is so solid.

D Tier

FC Dallas away

This seems eerily reminiscent of Chelsea’s away kit from this season in terms of the pattern. It’s missing solid red elements we’ve come to expect from FC Dallas. But the one major detractor has to be the size of the MTX logo on the front. It just seems way too big and makes this feel tacky.

Real Salt Lake away

This kit gets a few things right: the red monocolor crest, the red Adidas logo, the red MLS logo, and even the red on the sleeves. The blue sponsor and shoulder stripes look good as well. However, we think it’d be hard for a viewing audience to see the designs and adding a red outline to the sublimated graphics would have helped. Did we mention we liked the red in this kit?

Sporting Kansas City away

This kit gives us the same vibes as this year’s West Ham United away kit. If we’re being honest, it just seems like something is missing. If some small piping stripes in either white or silver were at the top and bottom of the navy bands here, we think SKC has a much better kit.

Nashville SC away

We liked these initially when it appeared to be black and yellow, but once we noticed it was navy our shoulders slumped. Navy and yellow is a wonderful color combination, but navy so navy it looks black doesn’t lend itself to that classic palette. If the navy was more vivid, this shirt would have been very high up the list, but instead it’s this, which is bad – therefore it’s bad.

New York Red Bulls home

The problem with every Red Bull team’s shirt is that the logos are so massive, so intense and such a striking contrast of colors that it’s becoming difficult for any of their teams to have a decent shirt. This jersey is no exception. The base is much too simple and doesn’t include design elements that complement the kit. Also, the small Red Bull logo in the crest just above the big Red Bulls logo is goofy and unnecessary. If you’re going to be your own team and sponsor, please find a way to be more creative.

Austin FC home

A club in its inaugural year should come in much stronger than this. It’s your first season, capitalizing on that energy and giving your supporters a dope shirt is important. It’s unlikely you’re going to have much more success beyond that, so it’s really disappointing to start the season with a non-memorable shirt. (Side note: Again, another team outdone by the NWSL. Racing Louisville is a new NWSL expansion team and dropped this beauty.)

Minnesota United FC home

This is how our conversation went for this jersey:

“I feel nothing toward this kit. It’s not ugly, it just seems like a light blue adidas shirt. D tier.”

“Yep, I’m good with that.”

~End of conversation~

Colorado Rapids away

This kit has a lot of unique design elements. Unfortunately, no one will see them in action on the field and they are hard to notice if you don’t buy the jersey. The kit is a light green color (but it looks white) and you can barely notice the silver star above the crest. The biggest disappointment is the really cool embedded topographical line design paying homage to some of the high peaks of Colorado. Sadly, it’s the same color as the kit so you won’t be able to see it on your screen. For a look at a better crack at this idea, look at Kelme’s effort on the away kit for Spanish side SD Huesca.

D.C. United away

Obnoxiously patriotic symbolism. DC is more vivid and interesting than cheap American iconography. The marble pattern is much too light and the red, white and blue is annoying. It looks too similar to the current US National Team jersey. DC, real DC, is a magnificent place, and we swear to God if DC doesn’t give us a Cherry Blossom shirt we’re gonna go mad.

Delete This Tier

Houston Dynamo FC home

This shirt is actually fine. Perfectly fine. It’s OK. It’s not disgustingly memorable, or classically memorable. It’ll be forgotten as soon as the team stops wearing it and moves onto something else. But for now, today, it’s fine. I’m not sure that’s what they were going for but it’s difficult to see any other intent given the extreme lack of, anything. (Once again, a MLS team outdone by an NWSL counterpart. They look similar, but there’s no sublimated graphic for the Dynamo. Meanwhile, the Dash have this cool hexagon pattern)

San Jose Earthquakes home

We like the collar and the cuffs of the sleeves. Even the sponsor logo seems like a good size and a good color. But outside of that, we see nothing but a light blue t-shirt. We get that it’s your home kit, but you couldn’t have added anything else to it?

CF Montreal away

Yes, this is the same kit as last year. Yes, we didn’t like it then. But, this is where we punish CF Montreal for their rebrand. It seems unnecessary to blow up a well established brand for the sake of making things more European. The Impact had a unique name and a fanbase that loved it. It’s sad to see it go. Also, if you’re going full rebrand, then Adidas should’ve given you a new away kit - so this ranking is as much on them as it is on CFM.

Los Angeles FC away

LAFC’s Roma impression is hilarious. Like that old meme of a woman trying to hair flip rising out of water:

The base color is much less in the vintage category and extremely in the dirty socks category.

Inter Miami CF away

Fashion icon David Beckham continues to be disappointing in an area in which he should never be disappointing. Not only is the kit bland and basic, and the Miami design is hidden in black, but it’s not Miami at all! The biggest problem here is that anyone who has never been to Miami could produce a more Miami shirt, and that is embarrassing. ADD. MORE. PINK.

Austin FC away

See Austin’s other kit, but also the worst thing you can do is make no effort and sell a shirt at MLS shirt prices anyway. If you want to buy this shirt with a name and number on the back you’re going to pay $119.99, and that’s just criminal.

Columbus Crew SC away

This shirt is so bad it’s funny. It makes no sense and it’s hideous. The best part of this kit is that it’s just the setup to the punchline: the full kit.

The Worst: New England Revolution away

Cue the other rant:

“This has to be one of the most lazy and confused kits I have ever seen - made worse by the descriptions of the design elements. I’m from New England, and a lot of these design elements don’t make any sense at all.

“The one positive comes from dedicating the jersey to “The Fort”, a supporters section of the Revolution at Gillette Stadium. A logo on the lower left side lists the sections the group stands in, and overall, that’s the most unique thing about this jersey.

“The description of the design elements say the stripes on the shoulders represent “the colors of the water and the sky that surround the war-era forts throughout New England” and the lines on the main body of the kit represent “the blockwork of American Revolution Era war forts.”

“So let’s tackle each of these. The colors on this kit are confusing. While they claim the left shoulder stripes are navy, it looks closer to black in multiple pictures. In addition, the club crest and Adidas logo look black, leaving the United Healthcare sponsorship as the only navy thing on the jersey. As for the light blue, the messaging is wrong if they think that’s representative of the sea. The waters of New England are not that light. If it’s representative of the sky, they got that wrong too. The skies of New England are not turquoise.

“But, more importantly, the line design on the shirt itself doesn’t represent what they aimed for. A majority of the major forts in New England left over from the Revolutionary War are either: a) made of wood, not stone blockwork or b) pentagonal in shape, not square.

“All of this is just distraction from the main problem with this kit: it’s a template. The design is taken directly from the kit Spain will wear to the Euros in 2021.

“Overall, this kit is a representation of everything wrong with Adidas’s MLS kit rollouts. The Revs deserve better.”

Finally, here’s our full tier list visualized:

Let us know what you think! Were we right? Were we wrong? Did we put too many in the C, D, and Delete This column? Leave a comment down below.


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