A new World Cup is nearly upon the U.S. men's national team. After nearly a decade away, the U.S. will play in another men's World Cup, which means the nation is once again gearing up for the drama, the intensity, and more importantly: the fashion.
That's right, a new World Cup means new World Cup kits, and the USMNT has them just like every other team in this competition. Previous efforts for the U.S. during the biggest soccer tournament in the world constitute some of the best the team has ever received, such as the 2010 sash kits, the asymmetric stripe of 2006 and the affectionately nicknamed Bomb Pop kits from 2014. Because a World Cup kit isn't just a kit, after all.
And so it is in 2022 that the lords of kit bestowed upon this CONCACAF-conquering team ... these things.
The USMNT's kits for the 2022 World Cup are here 👀 pic.twitter.com/ylakM38ubb— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) September 15, 2022
Oh boy. Let's just start with the primary kits for now.
Presumably, these are an homage to the 2004-2005 primary kits. If you don't remember, those were the years that every country with Nike as their supplier got the numbers with the circles around them, and the thin, pinstripe shield type of deal framing the front of the jersey.
Puma has stolen that last design concept to make their own terrible jerseys for this World Cup, so it looks like Nike will just be content with the centralized federation crest and whatever we're agreeing to call that splotch of navy on the collar.
These kits are OK in the grand scheme of things. It's tempting to label them as worse than what they are, which is a perfectly fine primary kit. The U.S. rarely does interesting things with its primary kits anyway, and some of the most memorable ones of the past have been, in effect, plain white shirts. Remember how much everyone loved the Centennial kits during qualifying for the 2014 World Cup? Plain white shirt, with navy trim and a gorgeous throwback federation crest. That was all it really took.
Yunus Musah, on a media call right now, says he's seen and worn the USMNT World Cup kits (though doesn't confirm that they're the ones that have leaked).— Henry Bushnell (@HenryBushnell) August 25, 2022
Asked to rate them with a thumbs up or thumbs down, he says (with a smile, of course): "in the middle" pic.twitter.com/gBvKmOF6fs
However, these don't capture attention in the same way, and it probably has a lot to do with the centering of the new federation crest as the main design element here. It's front and center, and it forces you to reckon with the fact that it wouldn't look out of place paired with Tapout clothing, or spotted on a hat at a Toby Keith concert. It's not classic, and it's also not particularly bold. Just a crest designed to appeal most to people whose idea of imagination is putting the ketchup underneath the hot dog. If you put a crest in the middle of a kit, it needs to be a great crest. And the U.S. crest is just OK.
Also, the U.S. women's team will be wearing these kits, most likely in a more limited fashion than the men will, and the centralization of the federation crest has led to some ... improvisation on the placement of the World Cup winners' badge on their kits.
Lindsey Horan is as upset as I am about the placement of the FIFA world champions badge on this shirt. pic.twitter.com/JKUVKuQu1D— Brooks Peck (@BrooksDT) September 15, 2022
I think the biggest crime of these kits is a good analogy for this USMNT squad: they do the job, but it feels like they could do so much more. We get glimpses of it every now and again, when Tim Weah streaks down the sideline or Gio Reyna breezes past defenders, signs of just how fun this team can be.
In the same way, the primary USMNT kits can be legitimately great, and we have seen great U.S. kits in the past, even ones that are mostly white. Kits that take a couple of risks and nail them, create an instantly recognizable identity that's interesting and yet still distinct. Frankly, the vibrant red and blue all-over pattern of the Stadium Kit that the U.S. teams have worn for the past year or so come close to that feeling.
These ones? They'll be fine. And they will be better than the secondary kit.
Footy Headlines got a look the USMNT away kit (match/authentic jersey). It's really happening pic.twitter.com/SVKXjT0kUl— Andrew Joseph (@AndyJ0seph) September 13, 2022
The secondary kits look like they were dug out of the wardrobe for a Hanson tour in 1998. They are the child of tie-dye and stone-washing that should only be available for purchase with Kohl's Cash.
The only half-decent argument I've heard for how and why these kits will be good is in reference to the famous 1994 World Cup denim kits, possibly the most American of all USMNT kits. For a long, long time, those were considered ugly. The players themselves thought the kits were a joke at first. It wasn't until decades later that they achieved a sort of cult status, and many fans crave getting their hands on one.
And so, the argument goes, maybe in many years, we will look fondly back on the tie-dye experiment and wish we had them back. Or, maybe we will still hate them, like Weah and Weston McKennie say the USMNT hates them when the secondary kits were leaked online.
Tim Weah on the new USMNT kits 🥲 pic.twitter.com/e8WTxoEIcA— USMNT Only (@usmntonly) August 18, 2022
I can only hope that in 30 years' time, this particular version only exists in thrift stores that David Lynch disciples devise as purgatorial realms their characters can never escape from. They will lose themselves in the whorls of the pattern, be utterly consumed by the depths of the design. They will know nothing of hell, because they have encountered something far worse.
If the USMNT goes out in the group stage, I'm blaming this kit. Whoever plays goalkeeper will accidentally hypnotize themselves by looking at it for too long, or something.