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The Latest Sartorial Branding Crisis for U.S. Men's Soccer

Once again, our U.S. National uniforms tell the entire world: "We really don't care about soccer."

The Latest Sartorial Branding Crisis for U.S. Men's Soccer

US Men's National uniforms

U.S. men's soccer will debut a fresh jersey at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa this summer. That'll make it, oh, the zillionth redesign in 50-plus years.

Such is the fate of the American kit, one of the crappiest branding efforts in sports history. Whereas other teams wear uniforms as identifiable (and as sacrosanct) as national flags, the U.S. Men's National Team is in perpetual sartorial flux, pointing at the country's aggressive indifference to soccer itself.

US mens soccer uniformss

This year's look isn't the ugliest, but it has to be the saddest. It's a ringer tee, of sorts, with a Nike swoosh embedded in a sash over one shoulder. Away's navy, home's white. (The latter premieres this month in the Send-Off Series Finale against the Czech Republic.) Designed "with the national culture and identity of the U.S. in mind," it reeks of nostalgia for the team's 1950 uniform, seen here.

1950 soccer world cup team

Nineteen-fifty was the year the Yanks defeated England 1-0. It was a brilliant upset, soccer's own Miracle on Ice. So recycling the togs 60 years on is U.S. Soccer lamely casting about for another miracle. It's like a guy putting on his old letterman jacket and thinking he's 16 again. The "national culture and identity of the U.S.," it seems, is hopelessly stuck in a past that wasn't all that golden to begin with.

It's only the latest attempt to rebrand Team America. As Michael J. Agovino detailed superbly on Slate in 2007, U.S. men's soccer has blown through a closet full of uniforms, each its own little disaster. There have been horizontal stripes, pinstripes, wavy stripes, and shoulder stripes. There has been solid red, white with red-and-blue obliques, and stonewashed blue with white stars, which Agovino calls "one of the most embarrassing jerseys in any sport of any time." Contrast that to Brazil, where players have worn a solid yellow jersey since time immemorial, and if they didn't, fans would flip.

Kits run $70 each, which means that every redesign is a chance to extract a bit of cash from fans' wallets. So while the U.S. jersey might not reflect a great soccer tradition, because, well, there isn't one, it does reflect one longstanding American tradition: getting people to buy more stuff.