MLS: Grading the 2021 kits – Eastern Conference

MLS (Photo by Andy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty Images).
MLS (Photo by Andy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty Images). /

With the 2021 MLS season fast approaching, clubs are unveiling their newest kits. Which kits are the best (or worst) of the bunch?

MLS clubs typically have two kits for each season: their primary kit and secondary kit. Clubs get new kits every other season, usually overlapping their primary and secondary so a new one is released each season. As teams open their preseason camps more and more kits are being unveiled.

There are a couple of reasons for club’s getting new kits so often, the biggest two being money and refreshment. New kits mean more sales, and a new kit every other year keeps things fresh and interesting for the fan base.

There is a love-hate relationship with new kits. It is impossible to please every fan, but in a subjective sense, some kits are better than others. Unfortunately, with Adidas being the sole kit provider for the league, creativity and individuality is not a big focus (for most clubs at least).

Without further ado, here are your Eastern conference 2021 MLS kit grades.

Atlanta United

Ditching one of the few signature looks in MLS, especially for the team with the highest kit sales in the league, is curious at best and disappointing at worst. The “BLVCK kit” is not the worst kit in the league but the choice to go to an all black look despite being the only red and black striped team in the league is interesting. Maybe the team’s third kit will bring a unique look that is now missing from one of the league’s most visible teams.

Primary: D+

Chicago Fire

Despite being one of the league’s oldest club’s, the Chicago Fire are probably the most in flux due to their failed attempt at a crest rebrand. Because of the rebrand, last year’s kits were extremely plain. With another crest on the way for 2022, this season’s kits are also very unoriginal. Still, the Lakefront kits do have some positives: the double red hoops on the primary kit sleeves are nice and the subtle blue lining on the secondary creates a decent look.

Primary: C-

Secondary: B-

FC Cincinnati

FC Cincinnati get a new primary kit for 2021 (side note, why is this the team’s third straight primary kit?) to coincide with the opening of their beautiful new stadium. The new striped look for this edition is fantastic; the orange and blue thin lines are great by themselves, but the orange lines really pop and make this such a good shirt.

Primary: A

Columbus Crew

What a miss from the defending MLS Cup champions Columbus Crew. Ditching an iconic and historic highlighter yellow look for… white? This might be one of the worst kit decisions in league history. It’s clear the ownership planned to unveil a new look alongside a new stadium since design for this kit actually began back in 2019. However, the timing of the change could not be worse and Columbus fans will be eternally disappointed. The yellow shorts save this being a failing grade.

Primary (secondary?): D-

DC United

DC United’s new secondary kits are disappointing since it feels like the club could do more. The blue is an excellent touch but feels too scarce. That color combination with the red is nice but there is too much white. Like so many other kits in the league, it looks like a plain white t. If the marble pattern was more prominent, this kit would be one of the best in the league.

Secondary: C-

Inter Miami

Miami’s new secondary kit is the black “La Palma” kit. The palm design is actually very cool and unique. Yet, the design is not notable enough and so Miami’s 2021 secondary kit is practically a copy and paste of their 2020 secondary. And, like Atlanta United above, having a black kit is no longer a unique look.

Secondary: D

CF Montreal

Speaking of black kits, here’s yet another. Club de Foot Montreal, formerly known as the Montreal Impact, unveiled their new name and crest and primary kit for the 2021 season. Just like Miami, this kit has a very nice subtle design, mirroring the club’s new snowflake inspired crest. It might be too subtle though, and like Atlanta and Miami and numerous others, this is another all black look.

Primary: C

Nashville SC

Like their 2020 expansion counterparts in Miami, Nashville SC get a new secondary kit. And just like Miami, this secondary looks too much like last year’s secondary kit. The “Vibe II’ kit is presumably a sequel to last year’s “Vibe” secondary so the decision to have similar shirts makes sense in some way. The only thing saving this kit from a failing grade is the slight pattern in the upper half of the front.

Secondary: D-

New England Revolution

New England’s new secondary is really just a white shirt, which is disappointing for a club with such a long history in MLS. The bright blue shoulder stripes on one side and dark blue shoulder stripes on the opposite shoulder is an interesting touch but doesn’t do enough to distract from the overly plain white t-shirt look.

Secondary: D

New York City FC

The baby blue striping is classy despite being quite subtle and the small NYCFC logos embedded into the shirt are a nice touch. Plus, the club are bringing back the white trim on the neck and sleeves, which is a nice callback to the team’s first ever primary kit and has been missing in recent iterations.

Primary: B

New York Red Bulls

The New York Red Bulls have gifted us another white shirt as their upcoming primary kit. The “1Beat” kit features a cool secondary NY logo on the back of the neck and a subtle checkered pattern on the front but not much else.  Also, is it not weird that the Red Bulls don’t have a red kit? Clubs are always trying to do something different but having white and black kits and using the hashtag RedRunsDeep doesn’t make much sense.

Secondary: D

Orlando City

2021 brings a new primary kit for Orlando City. The new shirt is dubbed the “Through thick n thin” kit, which is a fun play on words considering the franchises tough times up until last year. The shirt itself boasts some interesting striping on the upper half (hence the thick and thin reference) and the dark to light transition from top to bottom is a different way to do a purple kit. The Lions bring back a button collar as well.

Primary B-

Philadelphia Union

What a fantastic secondary kit from the Philadelphia Union! The baby blue and electric yellow combine for a very “out there” look that is unique to the league yet ties directly into the city itself. There are numerous references to Ben Franklin and electricity, plus the color combination is actually a nod to an old Philadelphia Eagles jersey.

Secondary: A+

Toronto FC

Toronto FC get a new primary kit ahead of the 2021 season, and this “A41” (All For One) kit is a massive upgrade to their previous primary, which was ultimately a plain red t-shirt. The Reds keep their red primary look but get to boast a unique striping design. The addition of black Adidas stripes on the shoulder and black in the design on the front creates a fresh new look for the 2017 MLS Cup champs.

Primary: B+