Twenty years of USA shirts

By By Rhett Manuel / American Press

It’d seem that a country like the United States would have an easy enough time deciding on an identity with its uniforms.

Simple enough, right? Red, white and blue. Stars and bars. USA, you guys.

Not so much.

The U.S. Soccer Federation has (allegedly) settled on the sash as its trademark look. Yet, a gander at the past 20 years of uniforms will prove that that’s anything but the case.

There’s been good, bad, ugly and awesomely bad through the last two decades and give an opinion. Let’s take a walk shall we?

For reference, I’ll be looking at uniforms here.

1994: Oh, where to begin? These are so ... busy? Awesome? Something? The denim away jersey is iconic in U.S. soccer circles but let’s not sleep on the home uniforms. Look at that thing. Those are the stripes of then nation’s flag, and they are waving. Verdict — Home: 4/5. Away: 1000/5.

1995: Apparently the USSF didn’t like the denim look as much as I did because they debuted new unis the next year. These were much more traditional, with a solid color scheme and a thick horizontal stripe in the middle of the shirt. It’s also the first year U.S. Soccer debuted the current crest. Bonus points for the third shirt, which is the one time in recent history the team has broken out a columbia blue shirt. Verdict — Home: 3.5/5. Away: 3/5 (deduction for the red trim on the numerals). Third: 4/5.

1996: A new third shirt was debuted, with horizontal stripes. It’s not my favorite, as it’s a little too busy in the striping. Verdict — 2.5/5.

1998: A World Cup year, which means Lady Liberty should’ve blessed us with uniforms to make us proud. Nay. The striping is too busy, and the red isn’t my favorite. Chalk it up as a down year. Verdict — Home: 3/5. Away: 3/5.

2000: An improvement on the 1998 set. These uniforms were solid in color, and made the red away set less busy. I’m a fan of this overall, but sometimes busy is fun (more on that later.) Verdict — Home: 3/5. Away: 3.5/5.

2002: World Cup uniforms, which apparently Nike wasn’t very good at designing for the U.S. until later on. These had some nonsense on the side swatches. But hey, the team made the quarterfinals in these. That’s enough to give them a bump in scoring. If not for style, then certainly for performance. Verdict — Home: 3/5. Away: 3.5/5.

2003: A retro look for a third uniform, which is enough to send my heart aflutter. These are gorgeous, plain and simple, and in the argument for one of the better looks the U.S. has had in the past two decades. Verdict — 5/5.

2004: CIRCLES! The U.S. and Nike decided to put circles around the numbers for the home and away uniforms for some reason. In hindsight, it all seems so very early 2000s. It very much is, but again, the third shirt with a red sash scores points with me. Verdict — Home: 3.25/5. Away: 3/5. Third: 5/5.

2006: Finally, a year where the U.S. doesn’t ruin my appetite with World Cup uniforms. The vertical stripe on the home uniform should be brought back at some point, a return to the horizontal stripe was also a nice look, and the two-color sash on the red third kit is to die for. As you can tell, I enjoy sashes. Verdict — Home: 4.5/5. Away: 4/5. Third: 4.5/5.

2007: PINSTRIPE! This is the one time in recent memory the U.S. used pinstripes, and it’s hit or miss for most. I enjoy it, but it isn’t my favorite. Verdict — 3.25/5.

2008: This may be the year the U.S. wore my favorite home uniform. Red horizontal striping broke up alternating grey and white hoops with blue numerals. It’s also the uniform the U.S. wore when it upset Spain in the 2009 Confederations Cup on the way to the semifinals. So, it has some sentimental value with me as well. Verdict — Home: 5/5. Away: 3.5/5.

2010 & 2011: A return to sashes across the board for the Yanks. I’m lumping in the red alternate uniform debuted in 2011 because it was an identical design with a different color scheme. I own the away (navy blue) shirt, so this set ranks pretty highly with me. Verdict — Home: 2.5/5. Away: 4/5. Third: 4/5.

2012: A weird “ghost sash” phase. The “Where’s Waldo” special had red and white hoops with a dark red sash in the red stripes and the navy away shirt borrowed from Mr. Arceneaux’s favorite club team, those mighty Arsenal Gunners, with white stripes and a darker navy sash. These were ... different. Verdict — Home: DUD! Away: 1.5/5.

2013: Thankfully, I forgave the USSF because of these awesome centennial jerseys. A classic white shirt, a navy color with a great navy sash and an old school crest. Verdict — 4.5/5.

2014: This year’s set ranges from uninspired to busy. The home set is boring, lovingly referred to as “mom polos” by Troy LaFleur. The away kit has been nicknamed “the bomb pops” by U.S. fans because of its resemblance to a certain frozen treat. Neither are great, but the bomb pops get points for originality. Verdict — Home: 1.5/5. Away: 3.25/5.