Weeks after unveiling a new crest, U.S. Soccer has revealed its newest uniforms, ahead of a busy summer that includes Copa America Centenario and the Olympics, and they feature two looks: a mostly white jersey with blue sleeves, and a "bold" black featuring red and blue sleeves, according to outfitter Nike.
“The U.S. Soccer Federation pushes us like nobody else,” Scott Munson, vice president of Nike football apparel, tells SI.com. “They want us to be bold and want to take risks at times.”
Black is a risk, no doubt. But Nike—with the full blessing of the federation—took that risk, knowing it was balanced against the traditional white of the home kit.
The entirely new home and away options for both the men and women—only the cuts of the uniforms and the three stars for the women's three World Cup titles signify a difference between the two—come with a contrast. The home whites feature a traditional white body and blue sleeves. Then, to mix things up, the away kit comes with a black body and contrasting “patriotic arms,” with a red sleeve on the right and a blue sleeve on the left.
“It is always non-negotiable that the home should be undeniable American with a strong patriotic read,” Munson says. “It will be there with all the right balances of color and aesthetic. The away frees us up to maybe push it. We wanted to do it unexpectedly patriotic, to be strong, bold and confident just like we want the players to feel when they pull it on.”
Nike—which brings about four designs to the players and federation for a “gut check” before settling on final iterations—felt black was the boldest representation for the pitch.
“When we looked at black and started to play black off the red and blue, that is a super strong statement,” Munson says. “We felt like the U.S. is ready for that. When you look at the balance of the two (kits), it is extremely patriotic and fresh and unexpected and really prideful.”
Nike adds design details to the uniform for the sake of the players. On the inside of the garment, right next to the players’ hearts and behind the crest, Nike added in the phrase “We Can, We Will, We Are, One Nation, One Team,” a rallying cry of sorts for the men since playing Ghana in the 2014 World Cup.
“(The athletes) like to have input and help personalize it,” Munson says. “They deeply believe in these rally cries. It is important. It is a step we take to make them part of the process and balance the art an science.”
The updated federation crest joins the front, while “USA” is knit into the back neck rib of the collar and inside the cuffs are “1 Nation” and “1 Team.”
The shorts and socks have changes too. The shorts—made from the same material as the jersey top—have a new waistband with no draw cord. The flat finish sits on the body for more comfort in a lighter weight. The Hyperstrong sleeve sock puts a focus on protection, adding it in various locations.
“We put it where we need it most,” Munson says. “Players kept telling us they were always having to readjust their shin guards. With this they don’t have to.”
We’ll first see the uniforms on the field for the men when they play Guatemala in a World Cup qualifier on March 25 and the women will wear it against Colombia on April 6.
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, sneakers and design for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.