MLS Jersey Week provides possibilities for the A-League

Joe Gorman Columnist

By Joe Gorman, Joe Gorman is a Roar Expert

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    MLS jersey week in the USa (Images via adidas)

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    Has there ever been a better time for football in North America and Australia?

    As the A-League and the MLS continue to mature and develop, there are many reasons Australia should look and learn from its cousin league across the Pacific.

    Last week, Major League Soccer clubs in the United States unveiled their new strips for the 18th season of the competition.

    The inaugural ‘Jersey Week’ provided some interesting kits, several of which have been designed to incorporate some part of their local football culture.

    Montreal Impact’s blue and black striped away kit is a nod to their first jersey in 1993, while Philadelphia Union have designed their third kit to include the name and logo of Bethlehem Steel FC, a team that played in the area in the early part of last century.

    Vancouver Whitecaps have the slogan “we are the Whitecaps” on its hem, with “Since 1974” on the back collar.

    Similarly, Portland Timbers have used the “Stand Together” slogan – which represents the partnership between the club and its fans – on the collar its home shirt, while the away kit has the supporter chant “we are the Rose City” on the back of it’s collar.

    Perhaps most innovative of all, the Colorado Rapids have made the unusual and unprecedented step of printing all of their season ticket-holders names on their home kit, in a slightly darker shade of burgundy. Fans are, quite literally, woven into the fabric of the club.

    Even the national team’s ‘Centennial jersey’ is a deliberate throwback to mark 100 years since the founding of the United States Soccer Federation (USSF). Beautifully designed, the plain white jersey uses the original stars and stripes logo.

    Some may view these kind of initiatives as corny, but it continues an interesting trend in the way football is being marketed in the United States. The game’s history and fan culture is being used as a way of connecting people to their clubs, and clubs to their local area.

    And this year, the most famous of all US football sides will be reborn.

    True to form, the New York Cosmos have enlisted the help of several celebrity footballers, including Eric Cantona. But unlike last time, the Cosmos seem intent on building from the bottom up. They have plans for a new stadium, and have even employed an official club historian, David Kilpatrick.

    Where the Cosmos were all about being ‘new’ in the 1970s, now they are trading upon their roots and their heritage. They’ll restart from the second-tier NASL, which is home to several other historic clubs, including Fort Lauderdale Strikers and the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

    These clubs were all involved in the old North American Soccer League, which collapsed in 1984. They are ‘reincarnations’ of the old franchises, trading upon their history in a new era for American football.

    For Australian football fans, this will sound familiar. The FFA has increasingly tried to engage with the history of the game in Australia and to appeal to local communities, most obviously through the Western Sydney Wanderers.

    Of course, they haven’t gone so far as to resurrect any of the old NSL teams, and it seems an unlikely and unwise prospect for the forseeable future. But with the new NPL system, there is already talk of promotion and relegation and an FFA Cup.

    While there are many fundamental and important differences in the structure of the game in the two countries, there are also many similarities between the MLS and the A-League. We would do well to keep a close watch on what the MLS clubs are doing.

    Indeed, the FFA recently appointed former MLS executive Russell Sargeant to become the new A-League General Manager of Operations. Don’t be surprised if he brings some ideas across from his time in the States.

    The ‘Jersey Week’ is one initiative that could do well here, especially since the governing body allowed clubs to negotiate their own kit manufacturers. The tyranny of those monotonous Reebok kits was maintained for far too long.

    Interestingly, MLS clubs are all wedded to Adidas, although the manufacturer has done well to include a variety of different designs and styles.

    Several A-League clubs, as part of their community engagement programs, have ran ‘design your own kit’ competitions. There has been a healthy interest and enthusiasm for these types of initiatives among fans, and some of the resulting designs have been excellent.

    Still, could these types of competitions be extended to the home jerseys? At the fans forums held in Western Sydney, there was a strong desire for the club to play in red and black. The club delivered, and shirts have since flown off the racks.

    In 2011, Perth Glory celebrated their fifteenth birthday on their logo and even released their own “commemorative wines.”

    With the A-League’s ninth finals season and subsequent tenth season fast approaching, it will be interesting to see how the other clubs react to the milestone. Let’s hope they make some effort to thank and include their fans in the celebrations.

    Joe Gorman
    Joe Gorman

    Joe Gorman is a football journalist with a particular interest in sports history. After completing his thesis on football in Australia, Joe started with The Roar in October 2012. He tweets from @JoeGorman_89.

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    The Crowd Says (28)

    • March 6th 2013 @ 9:34am
      Towser said | March 6th 2013 @ 9:34am | ! Report

      Bottom line is Joe that given the similar histories of football in both countries,the MLS is I where the A-league should look for guidance.
      The obsession with looking at how its done in Europe by some fans in Australia is to be honest crap.
      Usually I find they are not born & bred there & have some Pseudo Euro Purist Fantasy business going on in their head.
      The reason that football is the World Game is that its flexible, it can be moulded like a piece of plasticine to suit the local culture & conditions. Nobody has a monopoly on it,ask Sepp thats how he keeps his job,a mask for every FIFA member country.
      Anyway back to MLS they’ve been there done that in a similar market to us,it would be folly to ignore their experiences & knowledge.
      ThIs new bloke at the FFA Russell Sargeant will be invaluable in providing the link to that experience & knowledge.

      • March 6th 2013 @ 9:46am
        nordster said | March 6th 2013 @ 9:46am | ! Report

        America is local culture now, interesting…we already follow them enough with playoffs/finals, cap systems, regulatory frameworks…

        I like European football as structurally it is geared toward being more exciting up and down the table and is open to new clubs. Plus it doesnt penalise success. I would only call folks interest in Europe “obsession” if it had no basis…anyone who has watched their leagues will know they have plenty going for them. So its not as slavish or whatever as u suggest…

        • March 6th 2013 @ 9:58am
          Towser said | March 6th 2013 @ 9:58am | ! Report

          Dont get your comment,think you’ve got what I was saying arse uppuds.
          Luv European football was brought up on it.,it works very well for born & bred Europeans.
          Merely pointing out that we can learn more from the MLS than Europe because their football history is similar to ours.
          I the end though Australia should do whats best for Australia.

          • March 6th 2013 @ 10:19am
            nordster said | March 6th 2013 @ 10:19am | ! Report

            The point being we have already learned a lot from US pro sports…i’ll add “relying on government handouts” to the list. And was just adding why i like Europe, your posts always complain of some “obsession” or purist fantasy when there is good reason people like it…whether they were born there or not.

            If u ask MLS fans what it is they like about their league now…much like aleague fans especially WSW…they’ll often say “it feels more like Europe”. Maybe there’s a clue for us there…its something they and our football fans are very familiar with and crave from their local leagues. We can learn more from Europe than the US is all im saying 🙂

            • March 6th 2013 @ 10:39am
              Towser said | March 6th 2013 @ 10:39am | ! Report

              I think you’ll find that if you trawl back through my posts,that I generally add a little more than “obsession” or purist fantasy.
              However if you see such things good luck to you.
              Whats the saying “if the cap fits wear it” & the other one “It works both ways”

              • March 6th 2013 @ 11:38am
                nordster said | March 6th 2013 @ 11:38am | ! Report

                True for us both, perfect 🙂

      • March 6th 2013 @ 7:25pm
        WSW77 said | March 6th 2013 @ 7:25pm | ! Report

        Towser you lost a great opportunity to be Quiet! America has nothing to offer for the A-League to Learn.

        Things MLS have done wrong:
        Stupid CAP system that only makes sense in the initial phase of a League, Clubs should always embrace other sports than Football (just like European Clubs) and the final Series that will eventually die when the FFA Cup arrives.

        America pufffffffff didn’t you mean SOUTH America!?

        PS: You know I’m the idiot that should-of skipped your comment.

        • March 6th 2013 @ 8:48pm
          Adrian said | March 6th 2013 @ 8:48pm | ! Report


          if A-league was to lean from South America, then the A-league would have 2 season every year, with two champion every year 🙂 wait a min, A-league does almost have two champion now 🙂

          you do understand how most South America leagues work ?

          and are you calling for the A-leagues to join with AFL-Rugby clubs, or to buy or start those clubs? or maybe they start European handball clubs

    • March 6th 2013 @ 10:10am
      TimberTim said | March 6th 2013 @ 10:10am | ! Report

      Portland Timbers just recorded there 35th consecutive sellout at Jen-Weld Field. They haven’t even made the playoffs so far entering now their 3rd MLS season. When will see more of this diehard win lose or draw we will show up for games in any weather mentality from our A-league fans.

      This is something to aspire to here for all A-League clubs. Not just sellout the odd game here and there. I want to see all A-league clubs reach a point where memberships are so valued that they are fully maximised. Only Melbourne Victory so far do this with there membership at AAMI park.

      And yes it will be awesome to see the New York Cosmos back in the top tier of US soccer/football. the Red Bulls are pretty much a New Jersey club anyway.

      • March 6th 2013 @ 11:30am
        Nathan of Perth said | March 6th 2013 @ 11:30am | ! Report

        That new Timbers kit, btw, is all class.

        • Roar Guru

          March 6th 2013 @ 1:12pm
          HardcorePrawn said | March 6th 2013 @ 1:12pm | ! Report

          Having had a quick look at the MLS store’s website, I can only see one kit that doesn’t look classy: simple designs, no fancy swatches and swooshes, they all look pretty good. The national team shirt is excellent too, again, plain and simple.
          I’m not sure if credit goes to the individual teams or to the MLS/USSF, but they’ve done well there. It would probably be worth the designers of some of the more eye-watering kits to take a look.

          The one shirt that isn’t classy? That would be the NY Red Bulls atrocity. Who’d want to wear a replica kit that makes you look like a can of cough-medicine flavoured fizzy drink?

          • March 6th 2013 @ 2:12pm
            Christo the Daddyo said | March 6th 2013 @ 2:12pm | ! Report

            Yep, NY Red Bulls is the shocker of the group. Sporting KC’s a bit nothing too I thought. Looked more like a training t-shirt than a proper playing strip.

      • Columnist

        March 6th 2013 @ 11:43am
        Joe Gorman said | March 6th 2013 @ 11:43am | ! Report

        the Cosmos aren’t in the top tier… yet. They are in the second tier NASL. But with MLS looking for an expansion team in NY, it won’t be long.

        • March 6th 2013 @ 12:18pm
          Towser said | March 6th 2013 @ 12:18pm | ! Report

          So Joe this is the sort of way to the top ,the NPL paves the way for?

        • March 6th 2013 @ 5:39pm
          TimberTim said | March 6th 2013 @ 5:39pm | ! Report

          They might have some competition from third tier side Orlando City for that 20th spot

          • March 6th 2013 @ 10:29pm
            ArsenalFan700 said | March 6th 2013 @ 10:29pm | ! Report

            Most likely not. Cosmos pretty much have #20 wrapped up and MLS really wants a 2nd New York club than an Orlando club right now.

            • March 7th 2013 @ 10:53am
              TimberTim said | March 7th 2013 @ 10:53am | ! Report

              It will come down to who gets the stadium approval first from their local goverment.

              Having a stadium is the big criteria to be granted an MLS licence.

    • March 6th 2013 @ 11:05am
      ciudadmarron said | March 6th 2013 @ 11:05am | ! Report

      small quibble – members names on a jersey is not quite unprecedented as Parma played in a jersey last season.

    • March 6th 2013 @ 12:22pm
      Its the game stupid said | March 6th 2013 @ 12:22pm | ! Report

      US football is average 21,000 per game now . latest tv rating aslo show growth…. also the National Team is now Household name …
      what ever else about the MLS as an elite sport is as good as the other US Sport because of the number of football players ,,, their biggest now bigger than Baseball ,,,, and the small number of player in a football team… compared to say NFL…

    • March 6th 2013 @ 1:54pm
      Midfielder said | March 6th 2013 @ 1:54pm | ! Report

      We can learn from both…. most important is how the MLS have done their expansion…

    • March 6th 2013 @ 5:31pm
      Adrian said | March 6th 2013 @ 5:31pm | ! Report

      MLS is now one of the biggest league base on crowd ave attendance…attendance 18,807 (2012)

      it bigger the French, Dutch leagues, and now only Bundesliga, Premier League, La Liga, Mexico Liga MX, Serie A is bigger

      • March 6th 2013 @ 6:17pm
        Titus said | March 6th 2013 @ 6:17pm | ! Report

        That’s impessive, hopefully they can get the name changed to Major League Football sometime soon. It’s still so hard to take it seriously at this stage.

        • March 6th 2013 @ 8:11pm
          Adrian said | March 6th 2013 @ 8:11pm | ! Report

          why..because they call it soccer ? maybe the MLS is right for there market to cal it soccer, maybe if they cal it football, that would hurt MLS more then what they gain

          for my money..i be asking what the French, Dutch , are doing so wrong, that they get less people the MLS …maybe they should call it soccer, and get more people (that a Joke)

          • March 6th 2013 @ 9:10pm
            ciudadmarron said | March 6th 2013 @ 9:10pm | ! Report

            What are they doing wrong?

            Living in countries with smaller populations maybe?

            • March 6th 2013 @ 11:22pm
              Adrian said | March 6th 2013 @ 11:22pm | ! Report

              French have 65 million people and it 1st game of choice in France , i don’t think it just about population

              Netherlands has 17 miilion people , which is a little bit smaller the Australia

              AFL has a city where 11 teams playing in it…yet the AFL can get a ave of 32,000 to there games

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