Here’s what it might look like
When it comes to kit design, the United States men’s and women’s national teams have historically featured a wide array of styles. Apart from the patriotic color palette of red, white and blue (Most of the time anywaylisten)), there has not been much design consistency between the various incarnations of the USMNT and USWNT uniforms. And with the apparent latest set leaking mostly negative reviews, it got us wondering – what is the ideal USA kit?
What should be the main color of the house? Is USA a white team? Red? Blue? Perhaps a symbolic non-flag color, like the famous Dutch orange?
Is it a plain top? Grooves ? Stars? A belt ?
Is the overall design something that should stay and become the hallmark of the team, or should it change to something new from year to year?
Let’s see if we can answer these questions by looking back at the history of national team jerseys and creating a new look for the United States.
Iconic or ever-changing?
This first question is important, and it sets up the whole exercise. Should USA adopt a permanent overall theme for their kit(s) or continue to try new designs with each release as they always have?
For me, that’s an easy answer – pick a look/theme and stick with it. Pretty much every major and successful nation (and club too) has a classic look, at least for their home shirts. Although details may change from year to year, the overall color, design and theme remains consistent over the years. Think about it – England, Brazil, Italy, Netherlands, Argentina – in fact every nation that has ever won a World Cup has a definitive home kit design. In clubs, it’s the same. The red and black stripes of AC Milan (and the blue and black of their neighbor Inter). Manchester United in red on white. The unmistakable blue of Boca Juniors with the yellow stripe on the chest.
The United States are also expected to have a signature look for the national team. And it’s the perfect time for a visual renaissance: in 2026, the United States is the main host of the World Cup, and it also happens to be the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence the United States.
Now that we’ve made that choice, what is the color of the canvas for our design? It’s another massive move, as this primary color can define a national team’s identity.
This is an area where the United States has been fairly consistent. Just about every official home jersey ever worn by the USMNT over the years has been predominantly white. Two of their signature moments came in the white shirt – England’s upset in 1950 and the last-minute goal against Algeria in 2010 that propelled them to the knockout stage in South Africa. Additionally, American women wore white kits in 1991, 1999, 2015 and 2019 – the four times they stood on the podium and lifted the World Cup. The trend for national teams (and clubs) to unify kit designs for their men’s and women’s teams is a good one. Although USA haven’t really had a great kit since they started doing so, hopefully they will continue to outfit both teams in the same design in the future.
So historically that has been the default choice, and the program has been successful. Also, it pairs well with the American flag, which appears mostly white to the eye (someone smarter than me can do the exact math) when looking at the 6 white stripes and 50 white stars. It also differentiates them from their two biggest regional rivals, Mexico and Canada, which wear green and red respectively.
So we’re moving forward with a white home kit as the base for the iconic USA style. And, for the sake of simplicity, let’s say the USSF sticks to Nike.
What is the design?
This is where it gets fun. What do you adorn that white shirt with, if any?
In the century and more that the US national team has played, that’s where they’ve been everywhere. Hoops, thin stripes, belts, wavy stripes, fake jeans – you name it, pretty much everything has been tried.
There have certainly been some memorable – and loud – designs over the years. The aforementioned 1994 star-embellished denim tops, 2012’s “Where’s Waldo” stripes (a look pioneered by 1983’s “Team America”, the de facto national team playing in the NASL), and the Bomb Pop look of 2014. But it all seemed gimmicky. Partly because of their relative flamboyance, but also because none of them stuck. After the 1994 World Cup, American football signed with Nike and has been at the whim of the Oregon-based sports giant ever since, totally changing jersey designs every couple of years or so.
There have been plenty of relatively simple jerseys for the United States over the years. But more often than not, instead of being a classy and dignified look, it ends up downright boring. A design element to anchor the look of the shirt is definitely the way to go. So what do we choose?
For me, the best look America has ever had is the belt. As mentioned earlier, two of the greatest moments the men’s team has ever had have been in a sling (1950 and 2010). The 1991 Women’s World Cup winners had a partial waistband, in the form of the Adidas stripes on the shoulders which were a popular design at the time. It’s a sharp, distinctive look that’s also relatively rare in the international game (only Peru comes to mind as a full-time belt-bearer).
So, echoing historic American designs featuring the element, let’s do a left-to-right descending waistband. This will also distinguish the side of Peru which wears a belt from right to left.
In the same vein, let’s make it mostly blue. The 2010 home version of the chassis kit rendered the signature element in a light gray, making it almost invisible (the third blue and red versions of this design were visually superior, in this observer’s opinion). Making the belt a contrasting color certainly helps it stand out, but again to avoid looking like Peru (and River Plate), blue is the best choice. Let’s add some red trim, in the style of 2010 shirts, with a dark navy collar and cuffs. FIFA tends to prefer teams wearing one color from head to toe, but that’s bland, so we’re going with contrasting blue shorts:
It’s a relatively basic belt, which surely could be filled with a detailed pattern or texture, but we’ll leave that for additional versions down the line. Let’s call it the classic version, the model on which future variations will be based.
Now that we have the general design, let’s get to the details. Because Nike wouldn’t release anything without going a little overboard, would they?
We’ve added the standard name and numbering, with stars inside the back numbers and a Betsy Ross flag at the back neckline. For this little bit in addition, there is a parchment-colored band on the inside collar with an excerpt from the Declaration of Independence. Who wouldn’t have seen a Nike advertising campaign before the 2026 World Cup with “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit (of a trophy)” as its slogan?
With all the extra bells and whistles, we have a finished design ourselves:
Eagle-eyed observers will notice that we’ve tweaked the United States crest slightly. The 2016 Crest update was decent – it lost the clunky flying buckyball and fixed the vexillological nightmare that was the blue stripes and red field of stars on the 90s Crest it replaced. But the clean look is a bit too simple, as if something was missing. So we added back the 3-pointed top to the shield that was a feature of the American football crest for most of its history, and changed the “USA” font to better fit the new space:
But what about…
OK OK. We can’t just leave him with a home shirt, can we? With a must-have new look for the home, the Away and Third Kits are where you can have a little fun and try new things every cycle. But, to keep it simple, and well, give people what they want, we’ve cooked up variations of two of the most popular designs from the past as the away and third-choice kits for the new set:
For the exterior we have an adaptation of the Waldo 2012 kit. The stripes are a little wider, so the space on the front for the number is not necessary. We also lost the faded belt from the original. We chose a belt for the main shirt, the belts look great, but not together with strips. And while the OG Waldo was mostly white, this one is mostly red, with a red panel on the back for the name and number.
The third kit takes the 2014 Bomb Pop design, but makes it 50% more Bomb Pop-y. The central white stripe has a zigzag effect which, together with the tone-on-tone stripes, mimics the ridges on the actual popsicle. Additionally, the colors are reversed from the 2014 version, with blue at the bottom, true to the real-life frozen treat. Here you can also see a 4-star logo treatment for the USWNT release.
So, with that, we’ve got a whole new wardrobe for the US National Teams – filled with something traditional from previous generations, as well as whimsical options that will have people talking and turning heads.
What do you think? Did we succeed? Or have we managed to do worse than Nike?
What is your perfect kit for the USA?