The American soccer landscape exploded last week with hot takes about the new kit USL new boys Las Vegas Lights FC will be sporting. The black and neon top seemed to attract a lot of flak from soccer purists, and its fair to say there aren’t many soccer teams that would line up with this uniform. There is, however, only one team lining up in Las Vegas, and honestly, this look feels right.
I’m not a Vegas person myself and it would take a pretty large side bet for me to ever be caught wearing a uniform that seems to be the fabric embodiment of the famous Vegas strip.
That said, I love it.
I love it because soccer in America needs more of this. Clubs absorbing local identity and originality. The Major League Soccer 2.0 model saw the league move away from Americanized monikers towards more traditional soccer club names. The Kansas City Wizards became Sporting Kansas City, the Dallas Burn became FC Dallas; and every new expansion club sought to follow this model, save our friends in the Pacific Northwest whose teams managed to stay around long enough to make their old NASL monikers part of their heritage.
I’m by no means against the trend towards more traditional names. They are identifiable to established soccer fans in the States and do lend a sense of credibility to American soccer. At the same time, haven’t we gotten a little puritanical in our practice?
Last year’s expansion class of Atlanta United FC and Minnesota United FC exposed a bit of our lack of originality. While Minnesota came into the league with the name, having used it in lower leagues since 2019, Atlanta looked at a blank canvas and decided to pretty much call themselves the exact same thing; which left MLS originals D.C. United fuming. The prior expansion class, of course, brought two teams called “City” into the league. This time it was a bit more complicated, with Orlando City has used the name since 2011 in the USL and, well, New York City is actually from...you see where this is going.
Within these four examples, there is some important nuance. Orlando and Minnesota brought unique brands up with them from their lower league experience. After one season in sharp but predictable red uniforms, Orlando City made the switch to the very iconic purple kits they wear now. Minnesota fought to keep both its loon logo and the name while keeping the unique grey and light blue kit color scheme.
NYCFC and Atlanta United FC opted to stay on brand with their parent companies, with both clubs keeping the Manchester City sky blue and Atlanta Falcons red and black combination. To their credit, each added an additional secondary color for some originality.
As MLS and the USL both expand, identity becomes all the more important. NYCFC and Atlanta United chose to attach their identity to known brands, while Orlando and Minnesota sought to create something identifiable. Each is a path, and each has their merits. No one can argue against the success of Orlando, NYCFC, Atlanta, and (mostly) Minnesota in terms of marketing their clubs.
Still, as more clubs enter into the marketplace, can we break away from the boring European monikers just a bit? I’m not saying we have to revive the Colorado Caribous and their infamous fringe uniforms, but authenticity and originality can coexist.
Las Vegas Lights FC will kick off in a sports-starved tourist mecca this season. A downtown stadium and an iconic, if not slightly obnoxious, uniform will draw fans from both the locals and those in town for a weekend of shows and gambling. The best way to attract supporters to one of America’s most unique cities is to make sure you are just as unique as the city you represent.
And if you are wondering just how important neon is to the identity of Las Vegas, you can always visit the Neon Museum, located around the block from the stadium where the Lights will play this season.