Jersey numbers. For many players and fans, it’s as much a part of their identity as the actual jersey they wear. For some players, it literally forms the basis of their nicknames or their mantra.
Jersey Week has discussed the best and the worst jerseys our teams have worn, but now we dive into the world of jersey numbers and which are our favorite. In a sport where very rarely does a national team have numbers that go beyond 23 and where leagues don’t have many players that have numbers higher than 25, we are blessed to live in the United States. While the USMNT and USWNT rarely have an opportunity to have players have number higher than 23, Major League Soccer does not care what number a player uses. That provides a unique opportunity for some players to choose numbers that others may consider odd but can become a part of that player’s identity and legacy.
My favorite number in the world is 2. It’s because I’m the second of my name, being named after my father. Whenever I played sports, my first choice was always #2 so that I could have my full name on the back (Wine 2). In soccer, I always played forward or left wing as a kid, which is normally where you’d see someone traditionally wear 9 or 11. However, I wanted to be #2, which is normally what you’d see on the back of a defender.
It’s no coincidence that my favorite USMNT player is Clint Dempsey, who we all know as Deuce. He broke onto the scene for the USMNT wearing #2 and playing in the midfield (later as a forward). He’s the first USMNT player jersey I ever bought, and I had to get the 2 to represent his nickname which is now a major part of his legacy.
Growing up, 7 was another lucky number of mine. I would wear it playing Little League baseball, when I was a lightning fast center fielder who could also hit the ball 300+ feet. My favorite player growing up was Raul, who wore the #7 for Real Madrid for a long time. Another favorite of mine on the USMNT was DaMarcus Beasley, who started with #17 but eventually switched to the 7 later in his career. He was instrumental to the team’s success for a decade, so it makes sense he would wear a number that is important in soccer history.
In my more recent days on the field, I’ve played some spot duty as a goalkeeper. Traditionally, we view the goalkeeper as the number 1, and the starter normally wears that number when they step on the field. However for me, I would wear #24 in honor of two of my favorite goalkeepers: Tim Howard and Bill Hamid.
Hamid began his career with D.C. United as #28 and dominated enough to be considered the best in MLS to ever wear that number, but since his return to the team in August 2018, he’s worn #24 and excelled while doing it. Tim Howard famously wore #24 during his many years at Everton, but he also had a chance to wear it during the 2017 Gold Cup, when he was a knockout stage call up for the USMNT and was able to select #24 to wear for the rest of the tournament. Plus, two of my favorite baseball players of all time, Ken Griffey, Jr. and Miguel Cabrera, also wore #24 during their careers.
Finally, #26 is a jersey that you will find on a ton of my jerseys, but it’s not for a player. It’s for the State of Michigan. Michigan was the 26th state to enter the Union on January 26, 1837, and to honor my birthplace, I throw Michigan 26 on the back of many jerseys. No matter where I am, I’m always reppin my state.
What are your favorite jersey numbers? What’s the story behind why a number is your favorite? Do you wear #10 because of Landon Donovan, Lionel Messi, or Pelé? Do you prefer #15 because of Megan Rapinoe or Kate Markgraf? Do you go for an unusual number outside of the traditional soccer numbers? Hit the comments and tell us what jersey numbers are a part of your identity.