Let's start this out a little bit abstract, okay? That a soccer team's uniform is meaningful to its supporters is a safe assumption, I think. That's true whether we're talking club or country. Besides the team's crest - and possibly even more than the team's crest - the uniform is the top visual identifier for any team, to its supporters, opposition supporters and neutrals alike. Which is why there's so much attention paid to uniforms online by internet crazies like yours truly.
So, what do we want from a national team kit in particular? The colors are important obviously, and usually they'll be based on the flag. (Obvious exceptions where another color is culturally/historically important, like the royal blue in Italy and orange in the Netherlands or for backed-into tradition like Japan's blue. But none of those apply to the U.S. national teams, so I digress.) I'm a literalist in this respect: the more like the flag you can make the uniform without looking totally ridiculous, the better. France and Mexico have this down pat with their three-colored kits mirroring their tircolored flags beautifully.
And that's why I love, adore, covet and otherwise lust after the current United States national team kit. Call it Waldo-esque if you want, but it's perfect. The American flag is primarily red and white horizontal stripes, and it's unmistakable - just like the shirts. Navy blue in the canton of the flag, navy blue on the shorts. White socks (rather than striped socks, which I usually enjoy) keep from overwhelming the eye and making the whole thing look clownish. The only thing that came up short was the crest.
Enter the USSF Centennial year celebrations and the absolutely gorgeous centennial crest. All you'd have to do to create the platonic ideal of a USA soccer jersey is plop that thing in for the clip-art nonsense that is the current crest on the red-and-white striped jerseys. That's it. Shut up and take my money.
If it's not clear, I was really hoping for minor tweaks to the current USA look - maybe some trim changes in addition to the replaced crest so Nike can label everything as "all new" - come next summer's World Cup. What I didn't want, despite Nike's history with the USA kits, was wholesale changes. Which brings us to today (via MLSSoccer.com):
As you can see, the centennial crest is there. Win! Huge win! Clip-art is forever banished from my soccer shirt! The tyranny of the 90s is finally ended!!
But, where's the red? I don't just mean my much-preferred red-and-white stripes - as much as I hoped against hope that Nike wouldn't veer away from such an obviously superior look, I don't put a lot of faith in the constancy of the designers over in Beaverton, Oregon. There's nary a drop of red to be seen anywhere outside the upgraded crest and the inside lining of the home strip. There are three colors on the flag, and these jerseys have left out 33% of them entirely.
Color me disappointed if these turn out to be legit. I would love, really love, either of them as a second kit so long as the stripey perfection of the current first look is kept around. But neither of them is stripey perfection. I wanted more stripey perfection, and instead I get sharp-looking sashiness and beautiful blue. They both look very, very good to my eye, but neither of them is perfect. We already have perfect, but Nike, sadly, was always going to go another way.
Then again, they aren't all-white, the most over-used, uninspired option there is. So I guess that's something.
Anyway, vote in our poll and share your thoughts on the alleged new strips in the comments.