Color Blind (More Shirt Talk? Really?)

The DC United third shirt announcement got me thinking about the distribution of shirt colors in MLS, notably the common complaint amongst league fans that "everything is red and blue" with navy blue often singled out as a particularly egregious offender. So I did what seemed logical and headed for a spreadsheet (sad, I know, but true). Then things got a bit out of hand...

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What do you think of when I pair "Major League Soccer" with the term(s) "uniforms/kits/jerseys/shirts" (pick your nomenclature poison)? Besides "goddamn adidas," chances are that you'll think red and blue, particularly navy blue. At least that seems to come up more often than not in discussions of the color distribution in MLS shirts.

"Seems like the whole league wears red or blue."
"What's the obsession with navy blue?"
"It's the fault of American sports in general. They're all like that."

I'm sure you've heard much the same if you've bothered to pay attention to what amounts, admittedly, to nit-picking of an excessive degree given that we even have a professional league to enjoy, despite its many and varied faults. But are there actual numbers to back up these color-prejudice claims?

Yes and no. To wit...

To clarify...

These numbers are by no means exact or scientific. I merely looked at shirts (primary/home shirts only) and broke down the color scheme into rough percentages of the shirt so colored (badges and sponsors not included), dismissing subtle variations of color (thus only one shade of green despite the awful, nausea-inspiring "rave" green of Seattle) save in the example of blue, where I broke out light and navy blue as parts of the initial argument. Then I used a spreadsheet to figure the percentage of league shirts covered by each color.

Surprised? While navy is the dominant shade of blue, that's actually a pretty varied palette up there, despite red and white each claiming a fifth of the pie and the various shades of blue almost grabbing another fifth. Subjective analysis? Perhaps. But I took the liberty of creating some points of comparison.

Here's the English Premier League, the foreign league the majority of MLS fans will follow most closely in addition to their own...

...where we see less variety, with blue and white, and to a lesser degree red, dominant, though still a healthy assortment of colors are represented. Is the red-white-blue dominance a symptom of much older teams tied to less outre colors by dint of their Victorian-era birthing? Perhaps. You'll also keep in mind that promotion/relegation means that some variety is built into the mix by default.

An even less varied example from the Old World comes courtesy of Spain...

...where La Liga is blanketed to an even greater degree in the same three dominant colors, with white being the overwhelming favorite (yawn).

In Germany..., white, and blue are again the big three, though this time blue is reduced to the status of minor player while white claims a fourth share and red nearly a half share of the pie.

But, lest we fear that all of these stodgy, old leagues (wink!) are so boring, it falls to the Italians to rescue us from boredom and produce the most balanced and attractive of pies (no pizza puns, please!)...

That said, did you spot the most represented colors? That's right—red, white, and blue. Just like the EPL, La Liga, the Bundesliga, and...Major League Soccer.


While MLS has its fair share of red, white, and blue, it is remarkably balanced in color representation, particularly in comparison with three of the "big four" of Europe. Also: I question my mental stability for considering this an interesting exercise. Also also: isn't quality of play much more important to presentation of the sport and attracting fans than shirts? (cough! cough?)


How many days till First Kick?

Ooh, look! Shiny transfer window slamming closed!

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