With just one week left to run until the 2023 Major League Soccer season whirs into life, all 29 of the clubs set to compete in the league's 28th year have unleashed their new kits.
Each of the individual 2023 jerseys are inspired by a central theme; a unique kernel of creative impetus that has shaped the design. Some are straightforward odes to home states, cities and fans. Some boast esoteric subject matter as varied as the Northern Lights, 1970s martial arts movie stars, country music outlaws, beehives and blossoms.
As ever, there is a wide array of hits and misses included in the bunch, so we've sifted through to evaluate the myriad offerings on show -- from the exquisite right through to the downright hideous.
Here's a comprehensive ranking of all 28 new (and one old) MLS kits released for the 2023 season:
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At the moment, Montreal don't have a new-for-2023 kit. The club issued a statement earlier in the month that this year's jersey "will not be available at this time," noting that it is consulting with indigenous communities about an inscription that would be added to the shirt. We'll have to reserve judgment until the final product is revealed.
Created in collaboration with Australian-born streetwear designer Daniel Patrick, the 2023 Red Bulls kits marks a radical departure from the club's conventional livery and features a faded, blotchy yellow and blue aesthetic that ends up looking somewhere between a paint-stained dust sheet and a week-old bruise. Pass.
The 2023 jersey is a throwback to the club's origins as "Dallas Burn," formed way back in 1996, and the metaphorical fire that was smouldered away ever since. As such, the old Burn crest is brandished on the rear collar. The dreary mid-'90s aesthetic is then completed by what appear to be basic Clip-Art jpegs of fire, distributed evenly across the fabric.
Los Angeles is a city infamously engulfed in a veil of noxious smog most of the time, but we suspect that the "smokescreen" in question here is actually a design concept centred around speed, dexterity and mystique. The result is a grimy grey-green kit that looks like it was run over on the Interstate a few hundred times prior to launch.
Sporting are making a great deal about this brand-new fourth evolution of their now-customary light blue and navy hoops, but the grand 2023 reworking looks incredibly similar to the hoops they wore in 2021 and 2022. Nothing egregious, just a bit bland.
Ostensibly a run-of-the-mill template kit, the Spirit jersey does at least boast a handful of bespoke design flourishes. For example, the concrete grey palette and faint vertical stripes are intended as a nod to the architecture of the club's new City Park stadium, which also appears in the form of an aerial view embroidered on the tag.
The bright red "strikethrough" sash is said to imbue the Revolution jersey with a symbol of defiance while the new club emblem, The Heritage Tree, makes its debut on the reverse of the collar. The fabled pine tree in question is an homage to the state flag of New England whereas the number (96) printed beneath it is a reference to the club's inaugural season in MLS.
After playing in a predominantly red jersey for the past two decades, Toronto have melded the "onyx" hue usually associated with their alternative strip to create a hybrid stripe pattern that fuses their two club colours on one shirt. The red pinstripes and raglan sleeves break up the greyscale but the overall effect is largely unspectacular.
Intended as a symbol of unity and friendship just as the first 2,000 cherry blossom trees gifted to the United States by Japan in 1909 were, the pinkish D.C. United away jersey features an embossed depiction of a cherry blossom brand that wraps around the entire shirt and the mantra "All are welcome, All are United" printed along the bottom hem. Flouncy, like the decor in your grandmother's bathroom.
It feels slightly incongruous to call a bright purple kit "mundane," but the otherwise-plain Charlotte jersey is only adorned with contrasting pink and blue trim and an all-over crown motif, taken from their club crest. Not one to live long in the memory, we suspect, even if the colours' nod to the city's NBA franchise the Hornets is likely to go over well with the locals.
Combining pale gold and light blue to create a mottled camouflage pattern, Union have really pushed the boat out to create a unique kit that emits just a whiff of Van Gogh-esque post-impressionism. Looks like something Napoli might have worn as a one-off in the quarterfinals of the 2014 Coppa Italia.
While Johnny Cash wasn't exactly famed for his undying love of soccer, Nashville have still chosen to use their 2023 kit to pay homage to the legendary country star whose influence still looms larger than almost any other in Music City. Created in conjunction with Cash's family and estate, the Man in Black kit unfortunately feels like a bit of a missed opportunity especially as it's essentially just a plain monochrome template with Cash's signature printed on the reverse of the collar.
An ice-white jersey that features five thin stripes running horizontally that denote the club's five decades of history as they enter into their 50th anniversary year. The two red stripes running through the central navy block are also there to raise awareness of the club's ties with Canadian Blood Services, a charity that oversees blood donation and related services across the country.
No prizes for guessing that Cincy's 2023 kit serves as an homage to the Ohio River that flows through the city as well as the many bridges that cross it. Indeed, the Roebling Bridge takes pride of place on the lower hem, while a cascade of fresh water rushes diagonally across the chest -- though it looks like somebody might have left the tap running, rather than a proud majestic river flowing by.
Dripping in honey gold and covered in a sumptuous hexagonal pattern, the 2023 Real jersey is a very literal salute to their home in the Beehive State of Utah. We're only amazed they didn't include a little pair of wings on the back.
Inspired by the sweltering Texas sun, the Dynamo's new jersey also bears a subtle repeating block pattern that is made up of all the various shades and hues of orange worn by the club during their 17-year history. It certainly lives up to the billing, but if anything it might be TOO orange for our taste.
Dripping in dusky black and vivid pink, La Noche kit is designed to reflect the atmosphere and nightlife of Miami after dark while the hooped wave pattern woven into the jersey also conjures images of the waterfront. Slightly too tame to be an instant classic across the board but likely to go down well with Rosanegra fans.
Inspired by the wavering gradients and shimmering colours of the aforementioned celestial light show, Minnesota's jersey is suitably psychedelic with the sky blue upper and the snow white lower boughs separated by a neon pink ripple. Admirably quirky if not entirely pleasing to the eye.
The first Fire jersey specifically created to give prominence to the club's brand-new crest, which sits literally front and centre of a field of white and is surrounded by blue and red chevrons and flecks lifted from the design of the logo itself.
A kit designed to look like it's in perpetual motion thanks to the blurred geometric patterns, with pops of bright yellow and white trim leaping up off the tessellating grey and black angular tiles beneath. An energetic look to match the energetic name. Lovely stuff.
A direct ode from Atlanta to their fans, who are known as the 17s -- a reference to the year of the club's formation. After experimenting with slight tweaks in recent years, the 2023 shirt sees a return to the classic slimmed-down red and black stripes with regal gold trim overlaid. Simple but effective.
Unveiled as a paean to the titular "wall" of supporters that roar the team on at the Exploria Stadium week in, week out, the new Orlando City kit features a stylised "brickwork" graphic woven into the lush purple fabric which is also accentuated by familiar gold accoutrements. Very regal.
As you may have guessed, the Active Fault kit is directly inspired by the earthquakes regularly felt in the state of California. Curious nomenclature aside, the Quakes' new jersey is a ruggedly handsome affair with a repeating pattern of black spikes, fractures and fissures breaking up a deep blue background. It's transmitting more of a tingle than a tremor, but we like what we see.
Designed by local street artist Pat Milbery and inspired by the pastel blue tints of a cool, crisp Colorado morning, the Rapids' kit is truly a breath of fresh air with its off-kilter reflections of cloud formations and snowy mountaintops.
There's nothing even remotely subtle about the Timbers' adoption of plaid, with the traditional crisscross cloth pattern visible all over the bottle green jersey proving that Lumberjack chic is still alive and well in the Pacific Northwest.
Inspired by the distinct and diverse voices of the people of Austin, the 2023 kit uses a glitchy, mismatched "barcode" pattern which comes together as one to represent the various communities that exist side by side within the Texan capital. The asymmetric stripes might divide opinion, but they certainly get a thumbs-up from us.
Sounders have offered tribute to the life and legacy of the great martial arts master by abandoning their usual green strip in favour of a truly astounding red and gold kit complete with dragon skin print. Seattle was Lee's first port of call when he moved to the U.S. from Hong Kong in 1959 and subsequently enrolled at the University of Washington before eventually moving south to Los Angeles in the 1970s. The shirt itself hits you like a 1-inch punch to the cerebral cortex, but we simply have to applaud its bewildering majesty.
The NYCFC kit is designed to represent the vibrant, diverse cultural melting pot of the city's five boroughs, from the Bronx to Staten Island. A cool mosaic of the club crest (inspired by the ceramic tiles of the city subway stations) is woven into the sky-blue fabric, while an image of the Statue of Liberty's torch can be found embroidered on the lower hem.
A suave green and gold jersey is topped off by a lovely neck and sleeve ribbon trim inspired by the zig-zag colours found on the Los Angeles city flag which is intended to kindle a feeling of "home" among fans from all Angelino cultures. Just oozes class and the unusual yet complimentary trim sets it all off nicely.