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The NWSL’s 2024 kits focus on customization and community

A new contract with Nike brings about the first league-wide reset in NWSL history

Photo Copyright Nike

The long-awaited 2024 National Women’s Soccer League kits have finally arrived. 

Every team has received two new designs as part of a new deal with Nike that prompted a league-wide reset. While all secondary kits follow the same basic gradient pattern in a solid color, clubs were given free rein with the primary kits. Two other important changes that come with this new contract are the elimination of white shorts after players expressed concerns about period leakage on the pitch and the ending of the rule that dictated that one kit must be primarily white.

The end result of these changes is more color and customization than has ever been seen in the NWSL. Even if the secondary kits all follow the same gradient pattern, next to no teams chose to go with a white base. Instead, different shades of pink and red and purple and blue are abundant. The days of multiple teams with a white-on-white uniform are finally dead and gone and the league is better for it.   

With this newfound artistic freedom, most clubs have chosen to represent or pay homage to their local communities. Representations of cultural touchstones and even visual interpretations of the regions themselves abound on these kits. Personal preference is, of course, subjective, but even if some kits fail to appeal to everyone, the fact that more clubs are attempting newer, bolder designs is a positive sign. It shows that they do see value in not only creating a distinctive identity for themselves but in creating one that aligns with their community. 

The Orlando Pride, San Diego Wave, Chicago Red Stars, and North Carolina all stand out as the clubs who went with the boldest designs while still paying homage to their local ties. They also all succeed through the clarity of their concepts as well. The connections to the communities are clear and obvious and don’t take reading a design cheat sheet to figure out. 

In terms of sheer audacity, no one beats the Orlando Pride who chose to completely jettison their traditional purple in exchange for a citrus design in a soft orange and green palette. The link between Florida and the citrus industry is clear and for the Pride to fully embrace this theme at the expense of their own branding is daring, but it pays off on sheer recognizability alone. There’s no question that this will be a polarizing kit, but it will also not fail to grab the eye or get people talking.

Meanwhile, after two full years in the league, San Diego are finally embracing the full potential of their colorway. Their primary kit features a design evocative of the setting sun hitting the ocean in shades of orange, turquoise, and pink making it an abstraction of both their crest and the landscape of their city. For a team that’s used beachy, surf imagery in their promotional materials for years but shied away from customizing their kits, this feels like a solid step towards embracing their local community and building a more distinctive brand identity than they have previously. 

If the San Diego Wave are moving forward, the Chicago Red Stars are stepping back into a bit of nostalgia by returning to blue and white after two seasons in black kits. These colors along with the red highlights are evocative of the past uniforms that helped define the team’s identity and are themselves reminiscent of the city of Chicago’s flag from which the Red Stars get their name. According to Nike, the nine patterns of lines spreading out from the crest are meant to represent the diverse neighborhoods that make up the city and radiate from the heart of the kit. This adds another layer of community connection to the design, but even without knowing it, the shirt still feels distinctly like one that belongs to this specific club which not many NWSL teams can pull off.

Finally, the Courage play in what is known as the Research Triangle made up of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill where three major research universities reside. Their kit takes this concept quite literally by placing retro style triangles of different shapes and sizes all over the kit. For a team that has never really strayed far from traditional kits, this is a bold and almost quirky change. It’s also the most clear, overt allusion they’ve made to the metropolitan area where they make their home. 

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These, of course, aren’t the only clubs who used their kits to connect with their communities. Racing Louisville, for example, patterned theirs off of legendary racing silk patterns used in the Kentucky Derby. The Utah Royals include a subtle mountain pattern to represent the Rockies that dominate the background of their city’s landscape. Whether bold or subtle, what’s important is that these homages show that these clubs care about their communities and want them to be woven into their teams’ identities. In a league that’s still striving to grow and gain widespread recognition, community ties are what will make or break teams. A flashy kit won’t save a team, but it can increase brand recognition and grab new eyes if worn around in public. Local fans may also be more willing to purchase kits that they feel represent their home and their culture, as well. 

Whether club chose a community-based theme for their kits or not, however, there’s no question that the new Nike contract has drastically reinvented what uniforms will look like in the NWSL moving forward. Color is now king (or queen) and enhanced customization is leading to bolder, more daring looks. With new customized secondary kits due to replace the gradient kits in 2025, there’s no telling how clubs will choose to push the envelope even further.

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