Every year, in an attempt to separate us from our money, Nike drops at least one new US jersey on us. Much like our men’s national team lately, these things have little-to-no continuity. You can always count on the Dutch to be orange, Brazil to be yellow, and the English to be white. Us? We’re red, white, blue, Carolina blue, black, highlighter yellow–whatever. It’s something new every time.
But, while Nike has given us some crap (remember the 2005 jerseys with the lame circle numbers?), some bizarre color choices (still don’t get the black), and some boring duds (the 2014 Wimbledon polo shirts, anyone?), they’ve come through with some nice ones, too, as did adidas before them.
Here are nine of our favorites of all time, ranked:
9.) The 2014 Bomb Pop: Men in Blazers called this shirt “pajamas.” Most people either hated it or loved it. Me? I was confused by it at first, but it really grew on me. It was so bold and American, which was a nice contrast to the boring white Wimbledon polos we wore as home jerseys that year. When I finally decided I liked it, I went out and bought one with “Donovan 10” on the back. Three days later, Klinsmann cut him. Great, great timing on my part.
8.) The 2010 World Cup Jerseys: I can’t really decide which one I like best–we did a home white, a road blue, and a red third in that kit. All three have a sash across the front, and I like them all. I own the blue, and if I’m being unbiased, I think it’s my favorite. But it’s the white with the faint blue sash that brought me my favorite memory of the USMNT, ever–Landon Donovan’s goal against Algeria. You’re wrong, Sir Ian Darke, you actually probably could “write a script like that.” But who doesn’t love a bit of hyperbole?
7.) The 1950 World Cup White Jersey: Nowadays, you beat England and no one really gives a shit. But then? The USA’s 1-0 win over England in Belo Horizonte went down as one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history. Still is. On that day, we wore a white, 3/4 sleeved jersey with a red sash down the middle. If I ever see you wearing that jersey at a match with “Gaetjens” on the back, I’ll buy you a beer. So much cooler than a “Harambe 69” shirt, you guys.
6.) The 2006 White World Cup Jersey: I love, love, love the giant crest and the bold stripe running down the front. The numbers were a simple, bold blue. Great jersey, it’s just too bad it brings back bad memories. This was the jersey we wore when Brian McBride had his face busted open in a match where we managed to
beat draw with eventual world champions Italy–the worst, most clearly corrupt refereeing I’d seen until Mexico “earned” all those late penalties in the 2015 Gold Cup. Et tu, Geiger?
5.) The 1994 Bacon Stripes Jersey: Chris has this one, and if you’ve ever met him at a match, he’s probably wearing it. For good reason, too. It’s great. If you came out with this jersey now, it would look dated and stupid. But in 1994? It was cool. The stripes are squiggly because it was supposed to look like it was a flying American flag, but instead it ended up looking like bacon. There’s nothing wrong with that.
4.) The 2002 White World Cup Jersey: Whenever I think of this jersey, the first image that pops into my head is Landon Donovan on the cover of Sports Illustrated. This was the jersey we wore at our best World Cup run of our modern era, a quarterfinal appearance after a Dos a Cero win over Mexico in the Round of 16. I don’t own it, but I will someday. I love how it has simple red and blue accents on the white. Ah, the colors of our flag. I used to take them for granted on our soccer jerseys.
3.) The 2006 “Don’t Tread on Me” Red Jersey: Nike only released something like 2,000 of these, and we only played in them once–a World Cup tune up game. Back then, supporters groups like Sam’s Army encouraged people to wear red to matches, but the team didn’t have a red jersey, so you couldn’t wear a jersey to a match unless you had an old red one or you wanted to stand out like an idiot. When this one came out, everyone snatched them up right away. Chris and I drove to Niketown in Chicago where I bought one the morning they came out. Now? I never wear it, because it’s worth a stupid amount of money and I don’t want to spill on it (I spill a lot).
2.) The Waldo – The runner up. This one nearly took the top spot, but it had a couple of fatal flaws. For some reason, there was a very faint diagonal stripe through the front of the jersey. But the bigger problem was the numbering. The replica had no space for names or numbers. You could get one and have it printed straight over the stripes, but it looked stupid. If you had the authentic, you HAD to get a name and number on it, otherwise it looked strange with the giant white boxes on it. All that said, this was the closest thing we’ve ever had to an identifiable American jersey. Kind of like the Dutch oranje and the Brazilian yellow, when you saw it, you knew it had to be the USA playing. We need something like this in the future. Enough of switching designs every year.
1.) The 2013 Centennial – The GOAT. Clean white with bold, blue trim and a perfect, simple American crest. This is the one if you didn’t buy it at the time, you were cursing yourself later. I learned a lesson with this jersey–if I like one from now on, I buy it when it’s still current. No more waiting to see if it goes on sale. Otherwise, I know I’ll be spending late nights on eBay in search of one. I shit you not, I won an eBay auction for my Centennial WHEN MY WIFE WAS IN LABOR. I was timing contractions right before we left for the hospital and still managed to win it. She does not know this. And, since she never reads this site, she probably never will.
So there it is. Fight me on these if you want. But, I think we can all agree Nike needs to come out with something good for the next round of kits. I think Nike probably realizes that, too, since the current jerseys have basically been at clearance prices since they came out.
Whatever you do, Nike, just keep it red, white and blue, would ya?