Wednesday, October 22, 2014

MLS: Set the Kits Free!

The U.S. likes to go out on its own. We don't use the metric system, unlike every other country in the world. We call our league champions "World Champs" as if the world is confined to our borders. Call it arrogance, call it swagger, it is what it is. Another striking example is our national football league: MLS. Unlike every other major professional Division 1 in world football, MLS forces all of its clubs to wear kits made by the same manufacturer(Adidas).

This is actually general practice in U.S. sports. All the major pro leagues here sell their "kit" apparel contract to one single company, whoever happens to be the highest bidder, of course. The NFL's kits are made by Nike, the NBA has Adidas, MLB has Majestic, and the NHL has Reebok. There are definite benefits to this kind of a system. Uniformity of design standards and distribution channels to name two of the most important. But we here at the Football Kit Blog feel that the benefits are outweighed by the negatives of not having a league in which clubs can negotiate their own contracts.

For one, the overall value of the combined contracts would surely be more than one bid to outfit the entire league. In football, you have Nike and Adidas warring for Man United, Roma, etc, bidding up the contracts, which just translates to more money for the clubs. Clearly in Europe and beyond the more important clubs get the higher value contracts. But in a league like MLS in which there is a lot more parity, this is not as much of an issue. Now, I'm not an owner, but I can see the benefit there.

But the most important reason to let each club control its own contract is creativity and aesthetic variation in design. MLS is a rather ho-hum league aesthetically. Adidas has done a poor job of giving MLS clubs a unique identity. Portland, Colorado, KC, and Seattle are some of the better programs. Philadelphia has a decent Ajax-style home shirt(but the colors and sponsor are dreadful). The majority of the league however, is woefully under-designed. There is very little "visual sizzle" to most MLS match-ups.

Opening up the designs to other manufacturers would surely create some variety and interesting visuals for a league in sorely need of them. The rest of the world realizes this, and MLS did once too, so now its time once again for a change. If its good enough for the rest of the world, its good enough for us.

No comments: