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MADDEN: Best Championship and League One Kit Drops

By RYAN MADDEN - ryan.madden@uslsoccer.com, 05/28/20, 3:02PM EDT

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A quick look at some of the best shirts dropped by USL clubs over the past two seasons

At first this was just going to be a top-five list, but with more and more Championship and League One clubs upping their creative games, and dropping new, wavy looks that not only catch the eye but also embody the spirit of the local community, there was just no way five was going to cut it.

The inspiration for this piece is this: Ask anyone involved with the USL and they’ll tell you the most often-heard compliments from supporters across the country are about the diversity, quality and innovation of USL kit culture. In a time where soccer jerseys have more crossover appeal than ever before, USL clubs are being given the flexibility in this space to express themselves however they please.

For many, it’s a breath of fresh air.

While heaps of top leagues across the world are sticking to more traditional, homogeneous aesthetics, USL clubs continue to raise the bar and provide fans with fun, original designs that look as natural in the community as they do on the field.

So, with no further ado, and in no particular order, here’s a small sample of some of my favorite kit drops over the past two seasons.

Note: Please forward any complaints about this list to Nicholas Murray. You can find him on twitter @NJEMurray. Again, complaints go to Nicholas. Not me…. Nicholas :) 

Forward Madison FC – The 2020 “Drip Kit”

You knew this one was coming, so I figured we knock it out first. Created by a trio of culture-conscious professionals at one of the country’s coolest clubs, the “Drip Kit” made waves this past week with its hydro-dripped, sublimated excellence and unique color palette.

Indy Eleven – The 2019 “Racing Kit”

The 2020 version is a banger too! But there’s a special place in my heart for the 2019 version, dedicated to the city’s other major sporting spectacle, the Indy 500. 

San Antonio FC – The 2020 Primary Kit

This Nike designed gem, with its unique black and red checkered design, absolutely blew the doors off the building at USL HQ when it first dropped. A great jersey on its own, the arrival of the shirt was helped by a first-class look book courtesy of USL’s 2019 PR staff of the year.

Sacramento Republic FC – The 2019 “City Kit”

With arguably the best all around presentation of any kit drop in recent memory, the 2019 City Kit is inspired by the spirit and swagger of the Indomitable City. On a beautiful blue backdrop, the jerseys feature core iconography from the local community, including the Latin translation of the city’s nickname “Urbs Indomita”, as well as the California bear, Sacramento bridge and capital city star. A beauty. 

The Miami FC – 2020 Home Jersey

The Miami FC kit providers Macron consistently put out terrific jerseys and this one does not disappoint. Vibrant as the city itself, this is an automatic purchase for any jersey collector. Unbelievable work here from the Championship newcomers.

Phoenix Rising FC – The 2020 “Copper State Pride” Jersey

Phoenix always produces banger jerseys, but even by their standards, this one is glorious. The back of the jersey has the Arizona state flag and the sleeves of the jersey feature every city in Arizona. Shout-out to everyone involved in creating this tremendous nod to state pride.

Sacramento Republic FC – The 2020 “Heritage Kit”

They’re back! Here’s the thing about this jersey. It’s not the flashiest, but it tells a story. The 2020 Heritage Kit is a nod to club’s inaugural season in 2014 where the newcomers – led by Santa Barbara native Rodrigo Lopez – captured a USL Championship Final in their first year of existence. With “Roro” back on the team, and the club’s future brighter than ever, we should all say thank you to the folks in Sacramento for this nostalgic, red-sashed heater.

Union Omaha – 2020 Home and Away Jerseys

Pope John Paul II once said, “of all the unimportant things, football is the most important.” It’s a lovely sentiment and at its core, is reflective of the ties between professional soccer clubs and the communities they represent. When it comes to jerseys, I think it’s fair to say that there has been no finer gesture to the community than that of Union Omaha, who donated their front-of-kit sponsorships for this season to two local health care providers on the front lines of COVID-19 research. Also equipped with #BendTheCurve on the back, Union Omaha has shown us exactly who they are and what they stand for. Bravo to owner Gary Green and his team for bringing this to life. 

El Paso Locomotive FC – 2020 “Noche De Locos” Jersey

A stunning design, this BLK-produced shirt features a colorful Sash inspired by the Borderlands, Texan and Mexican culture. Just the latest in a long line of terrific jerseys from the club, the Noche De Locos iteration also features a special "Los Locos" badge under the back collar.

New Mexico United – The 2020 Home and Away Kit

Becoming the only American soccer club to partner with Puma on kit production has paid off for New Mexico United, who dropped a couple of fantastic home and away jerseys for the 2020 season. Featuring different sponsors for each kit, both the home and away jerseys will only further fuel the intrigue surrounding one of the country’s fastest growing and most successful clubs.

Bonus Kit!

North Carolina FC – 2020 Home and Away Jerseys

While the jersey itself is pretty safe, the collaboration with J. Cole’s Dreamville Festival ensures that no list of USL kit drops is complete without mention of our friends in Raleigh. 

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