What is the best United States jersey of all time? That question has been debated for years by fans of the USMNT and USWNT alike, from local bars to the stands at a match to online forums and threads on Facebook and Twitter. It’s a debate that won’t ever be settled for one very big reason: U.S. Soccer changes up its jersey every single year. The Waldos, the Centennials, the Bomb Pops, the Cops, the DTOMs, the Denims, the Sash, white with a vertical stripe, blue with a horizontal stripe, plain white, anthracite...the looks that U.S. Soccer has produced for its teams could have its own Soccer House.
Because of that, the debate rages on. Everyone has their favorites, but above all, fans just want an identity that they can call their own. We see England, Argentina, Germany, Croatia, Australia, France, Spain, Italy, Brazil, and other soccer powerhouses with an established identity that lives through their home jersey. The United States has never had that, and years ago I set out to discuss why one particular jersey should be the foundation of that identity: the 2012 home jersey, more affectionately known as the Waldos. I even predicted the 2017 Gold Cup jersey, proclaiming that red and navy hoops could serve as a 3rd jersey while continuing to complement the jersey identity.
While many were convinced, some still don’t think it’s the greatest jersey ever. They have their own favorites. Later that year, we came out with a top 10, what this site considered the best jerseys of all time. That did nothing but highlight how many different looks we’ve had throughout the years, and the debate continued.
Recently, U.S. Soccer presented BracKITology, a 16-jersey bracket of what they considered the best jerseys of all time, and they asked for fans to vote on it. It was supposed to end the debate. However, the bracket was skewed towards the most recent jerseys that U.S. Soccer have released and fed off some of the memories of those jerseys. In the end, the winner was the 2019 WNT World Cup jersey, which they dubbed the “4-Star” over the 2020 away jersey, a jersey that had been released a month earlier to hideous reviews and had only been worn twice.
To many, it was clear that the voting, which was on Twitter and Instagram, had been skewed to have the jerseys that were still on sale progress to the end, not to mention that it didn’t include jerseys from the era when U.S. Soccer jerseys were made by Adidas. It didn’t even include many of the best from the Nike era. While the 2019 WNT jerseys were nice, and our fantastic WNT team won a World Cup in them, fans didn’t feel it was a true representation of what the best jersey of all time should be. Neither did I.
So, late last weekend, I decided to do my own. I set out to create the perfect 32-jersey bracket, seeded by popularity and look that fans have called for over the years. This wouldn’t be based on who wore the jersey or what was won in it. It was based purely on aesthetics. What was the best look that the United States had ever had. All jersey pictures that were considered were just the jersey and not with any players wearing it, so as not to have someone’s vote skewed back on how they felt about a particular player. On Monday, I released the bracket and voting started on 32 jerseys to determine which was truly the Best U.S. Jersey of All Time.
There were a few close calls in the early rounds and a couple results that could be considered minor upsets. The biggest upset was the 2018 home jersey, in the bracket as a 6 seed, pulling off the victory over the 2006 home jersey. However, chalk emerged in the Sweet 16, and the quarterfinals consisted of all the 1 seeds and the 2 seeds in the bracket.
This is where it really got interesting, because these 8 jersey are ones that always are at the heart of any debate over what fans believe is the best U.S. jersey ever. The quarterfinals were very close in some matchups, with the Centennial beating the Bomb Pop by 1 vote. The Waldo cruised on through to the final, where it would face off against the 2017 Gold Cup jersey, which squeaked by the Centennial in the semifinals by a couple of votes. Yesterday, fans voted in the final, and the winner was no contest. The Waldos won with 79% of the vote.
Despite some of the close matchups we saw throughout the week, the Waldo was never involved in them. They won their matchups with 92%, 95%, 86%, 87%, and 79% on its way to the title.
Almost 8,900 votes were cast throughout the competition, which is an incredible number. Sure, U.S. Soccer’s competition had a lot more, but they also have over 9 million combined followers among its Twitter and Instagram accounts. Still, breaking down the number of different looks we had and making it so that there were fair matchups to get a true winner was difficult work. In the end, it was great to know that my mind was in the right place. Fans may have a plethora of U.S. Soccer jerseys that they like and enjoy wearing, but when it comes to the best, an identity, one jersey remains supreme:
So, U.S. Soccer and Nike, let’s make the Waldo jersey our true identity. There are ways to subtly switch up the look while keeping the same identity, so that the 2021 home jersey looks just like the 2012 or the 2018 or the 2017. On the away jersey, that’s when you can come out with different looks, catering to what fans like. However, when it comes to the home jersey, make the Waldos our home jersey going forward.
The fans have spoken. Listen to them.