USL Culture Collection: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Overview 

Last week the USL launched what they called the “culture collection”. It is a series of concept jerseys that the USL did in partnership with select teams. The idea behind the concept is that they are supposed to celebrate the culture of the cities participating. While that does seem like a broad set of guidelines for this concept, it seems like at its core that the league was trying to create something similar to NBA city edition jerseys. You can read more about it here

Where They Went Wrong 

I like the idea of having city jerseys for the league. It produced some of the best designs from the NBA. It would also give each team something that gives them more connection to the community. I think where this idea failed was in execution. 

The first problem I saw with the “culture collection” is that the teams weren’t going to wear them. I think if the teams were to wear them (at least in worm ups) there would be more interest. Not having the teams wear them made this project clickbait. They only did this to drive more traffic to their website. Ultimately, I don’t think that a league should be doing a concept series when they have the resources to have the teams wear the jerseys.  

The other major issue I had with this concept is that not every team had a jersey. Every team not having a jersey would be understandable if they were wearing them. I get that it might not be in every team’s best interest to have a “culture collection” jersey. There is no point in not having a team though if the jerseys only exist as concepts. 

The not so major issue I had with the designs as a whole. These designs did not get the attention and care that the NBA city jerseys got. There was also no apparent overarching theme. If you’re going to call something a collection there needs to be a shared theme between the designs. I understand that the USL doesn’t have the same recourses as the NBA. At this level that shouldn’t be an excuse for creating poor designs.  

I’m ranking the jerseys in three categories. Good, bad and ugly. The order they are in is based on the order they come upon the USL page here. 

 The good 

Birmingham Legion FC

Balance of negative and positive space is easily the most important thing when designing a jersey. I think this jersey does a good job of balancing out space. The jersey has nice hierarchy traveling from the bottom to the top of the jersey. I think this jersey could work just as well if not better without the front graphic. The reason for this being that there is no graphic on the back of the jersey and I like the back of the jersey just as much if not more because of that.   

Charleston Battery 

Honestly, this jersey looks like a Hawaiian shirt. I like this one because it feels cool (like temperature). The gradient isn’t overwhelming.  The pattern isn’t overwhelming. In uses lighter colors the background doesn’t take away from the foreground. The only thing I don’t really like with this one is the gradient shape behind the logo. The shape makes it look like the jersey has a pocket. Giving the logo a gradient outline would probably have made it fit the overall design better. 

Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC

I think this is a top contender for the best. I like the colors. There are dark colors on the bottom and light colors on the top. Having the Colorado C behind the mountains like a sun is a nice touch. The design represents Colorado well. I have seen other designs for Colorado that look similar to this one. I think this design could work well for a poster. I want to see more designs like this. I think what makes it work well is the shapes. 

Hartford Athletic

I like it because it’s designed after the Hartford Whalers. The whale tale design could have been better. The ocean pattern is a nice way to cover up negative space. The overlay on the jersey gives it a nice tie-dye look. I think that that did a better job of emphasizing the ocean more than if it was just blue. I think it represents Hartford well. The biggest thing that the city is known for was having an NHL team. 

Oklahoma City Energy FC

They did a really good job with this one. I love the pattern on the sleeves. I like the design in the front. I like how they made the design the same color as the jersey but in a different shade. I think that’s what gradient overlays on jerseys should look like. It doesn’t take away anything from the rest of the design. I wouldn’t change a thing with this design. That being said I do think that cowboys (while they are known for being in Oklahoma) are not the best way to represent Oklahoma or Oklahoma City. I think Native Americans are. The majority of the land in Oklahoma is owned by natives. I think that the Oklahoma City thunder did a good job designing a native American jersey. I think that Oklahoma City would be the best team to represent Native Americans in their designs. Other than that, the design is excellent. I probably would have said that if the design was cowboy themed or not. That being because the Oklahoma City Thunder do have that sweet Native American jersey. 

Swoope Park Rangers

This one has some great silhouettes and patterns. It also does a good job of balancing out negative space. This jersey could have easily had way too much going on with it way too quickly. It does a good job of balancing out between the colors and the patterns. This is one I would have to see in real life. While it does look good as a design it might have too much going on to work as an actual jersey. 

The bad 

Charlotte Independence

I Like this one. I just think it could have been better. I think that there is too much negative space on the jersey. I think something else should have been done with the checkered pattern to get rid of more negative space. Again, I like it, I just don’t think it reached its full potential. 

Las Vegas Lights FC 

This one almost got put into the ugly pile. I like the front design with the neon, the sign, and the dice. I wish they did more with the neon card symbols that are to the side of the triangle. I think they could have made that pattern the primary of the jersey. I hate those circular wave things that are going on. I think it makes the design too busy. If they were inside of the triangle that would have been better. I think getting rid of them altogether would have been the best choice. 

Loudoun United FC

This is another one that I like. I just feel like it could have been better. I think a white jersey with two stripes across the chest would have been better. Then you could have done a star pattern across the whole jersey. The stars could be an off-white color with three above the stripes being red. Have the red lines match up on the sleeves. I think it’s a problem for this jersey that the stripes are different widths while on the flag the stripes are the same widths. I also don’t get why they didn’t use the Loudoun flag. There is so much more to work with that flag. I mean they used the Loudoun flag in their logo. 

Louisville City FC

This jersey starts by looking like a traditional soccer jersey. Where it goes the most wrong is with the colors. The gradients that are being used make it look cheap. I think that they could have done something like Birmingham Legion FC did on the back of their jersey. If they did something like that they could have kept the colors and had an amazing jersey. The only real contrast we get with this jersey is the sleeves and the design in the middle. I think they could have broken down the design in the middle. They could have made “derby city” larger and put it in the middle. Then they could have put the race horse silhouette on the bottom and to the side of the jersey. Then everything else in the design could have gone behind the name on the back.

North Carolina FC

I think this one had the potential to be good. I like the tree pattern that’s sprouting all over the jersey. I like the colors of this jersey. It looks like something Austin FC could wear. What I don’t like is the overlay on the jersey. This kills it for me. It looks like a cut log that’s been sitting out drying. The reason I don’t like this is that I don’t think it works with the rest of the design. It feels out of place. The rest of the design is modern from the colors to the patterns. Then this gets put in which gives it a rustic tone that doesn’t go with the design. 

Ottawa Fury FC

This is another one that I thought could have been better it is. I like the idea of a Canadian design as they are the only Canadian team. I think the font choice in the middle of the jersey is poor. I don’t like the silhouette of the building in the front. It could have worked better on the back. It’s something that I would have just gotten rid of altogether. I like how the leaf pattern that they use gives the jersey some texture in its design. I think the maple leaf should have been facing forward instead of off to the side. I think it would have looked a lot better if it was modeled after the Team Canada hockey jersey from 1972. I think flipping the colors to make it a black jersey with a white-red maple leaf could have worked just as well. 

Pittsburgh Riverhounds sc

I like their current logo a lot. One of the best parts about it is the “bridge element” in the logo. I think that they should have used that instead of trying to make riveted sheet metal their main design. I think that would have improved this jersey 110%. The shading on the riveted sheet metal doesn’t have good texture or shading. The font used for “steel city” looks terrible. The font being the same color as the background it’s on is bad. The gradients are bad and overall it just looks cheap. 

Reno 1868 FC

I do not like this jersey. It seems like this jersey has been a hit or miss with most people. The main criticism I have seen for this jersey is that Reno is more than just a gambling town. I think we are. Gambling drives like 95% of our tourism and at least 75% of our economy. Whether we think of Reno as a gambling town or not, the world sees us that way. Besides we latterly share a stadium with a team called the Aces. 

My biggest issue with this jersey is the casino ship pattern. It would probably be better if it was only on the back. I think this jersey is too yellow. The elements of the city flag (the mountains) Are good on the back, but I think they’re in the wrong position on the front. I think if they were switched with “biggest little city” then that would be a better layout. I like the font for the “biggest little city”. It goes with the casino theme of the jersey. I think it would have had better contrast if the casino ships went behind it. 

Rio Grande Valley FC Toros

Camo. Need I say more? I don’t like camo jerseys for the most part. Usually, the camo and tones are overused making it hard to see details. This one isn’t the case and I like what they did with the sleeves. I think that the “Toro” and “U.S. Marines” patch designs should have gone on the sleeve that doesn’t have the USL logo on it. I think the black gradient at the bottom of the jersey should have gone on the top. That would give the crest more contrast with the camo making it more visible. Originally this was going to go into the ugly pile because there is just way too much camo in the design. However, because Rio Grande Valley is a military town it does a good job of representing the culture of the town. 

Saint Louise FC

It’s not bad enough to be in the ugly pile but it’s not good enough to be in the good pile. I think the front of the jersey doesn’t have enough contrast between the different elements. It feels like three separate sections instead of one design. I like the back of the jersey. Specifically, the pattern on the back. While the front has the same basic pattern just with colored in, Its almost imposable to see any of the pattern that’s not colored in. I don’t think that the gradients add anything to the design. I think it would be better if the gradient was only inside of the pattern. Similar to Charleston. Then if the red and blue get toned down a little bit it will be fine. 

Tacoma Defiance

A bridge. I do like how the bridge slowly fades away in the design. I do not like how the bridge is the only thing in the jersey. I like how there is limitless potential here and this is what was created. Untimely its unremarkable. 

The ugly 

El Passo Locomotive FC

I don’t even know where to start with this one. I don’t like it. I don’t like any of it. It feels like there were two contrasting ideas put together. The pattern on the bottom is fine. It doesn’t work because its only on half of the jersey. It competes for your attention with the rest of the jersey. It doesn’t blend well with the top half of the jersey. I think if this pattern was only on the top or the middle and was the only element in the jersey it would be fine. I like the design of the stars. I don’t like how they are used. If they were only on the sleeves or the only design in the whole jersey they would be fine. What I don’t like the most and what I think kills this jersey is the bright lens flare looking design at the top and around the collar. I think it’s ugly I think it takes a lot away from the design. I think it destroys the contract of the upper half of the jersey. I just think it’s awful. I think there were some good ideas in there but the execution was awful.

Fresno FC

I get what they are trying to do. Their trying to collage several different teams into one jersey. It does not work on so many levels. I don’t like the negative space at the bottom. I don’t like how all of the designs are fighting for your attention. I don’t like how nothing blends well. I think it would have been a better jersey if they did something like the collage of logos in the background. Use the same paintbrush art style to create the designs in the jersey. Use the design that’s in the background of the jersey on the center of the front of the jersey. Make it the Fresno flag or California flag colors. 

Indy Eleven 

Let’s talk about the only long sleeve jersey in the bunch. This jersey belongs in the good pile. I love the patterns on this jersey. The design of this jersey is ridiculously good. Where this thing comes up short is that the car on the front is a Formula One car not and Indy car. There is no Formula one race in Indianapolis. There is however the Indy 500. The Indy 500 is an Indy car race. Some of the people on Reddit were upset about this. It’s a stupid mistake that didn’t need to happen. Other than that it’s a great looking jersey. 

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