Nineties Kit of the Week: Kansas City (96/98)


Team: Kansas City Wiz/Wizards
Strip: Home/Away/Alternate
Year: 1996-99
Manufacturer: Adidas
Sponsors: N/A
As worn by: Preki, Mo Johnston, Alexei Lalas

As we approach the twentieth season of Major League Soccer, the generally pretty smart Adidas kits you see in the league these days are a far cry from the infamous outfits worn during its inaugural few seasons. We could do a series of posts on some of the worst offenders of the period (and we probably will), but a particular favourite is the “rainbow” series of shirts worn by Kansas City Wizards.

Wizards V Clash Eric Eichmann Wizards
The team known these days as “Sporting KC” began life as the “Kansas City Wiz” in 1996, and brought with them a startling kit that was predominantly black with a prominent rainbow pattern running across from one shoulder, down and along the front of the shirt. The away kit, meanwhile, was actually a quite nice take on the basic design – simply replacing the black with white and otherwise keeping the pattern, and light blue sleeves. It was probably the most eye-catching shirt of a pretty generally eye-catching group of MLS debut shirts, but at least it was a better colour combination than the likes of San Jose Clash, LA Galaxy or Tampa Bay Mutiny.


Perhaps the biggest problem with it was the way the front shirt numbers were placed in the bottom right-hand part – but as can be seen, this was a feature of all the league’s kits that year. It’s also notable that the shirt as worn in matches was slightly different from the one initially seen on the launch day above.

For 1997, to accompany the team’s renaming to “Kansas City Wizards”, the kit was tweaked – the words “KANSAS CITY” added to the front along with an Adidas logo:

Wizards v Burn Sean Bowers
But the same season also saw an alternative shirt worn – I’m not sure exactly how many matches it was used for, or indeed what the reasoning was, but this one was terrific:

Mark Chung Wizards V Rapids
Yes, it’s pretty garish – and if you’re just opposed to the rainbow pattern in general you’re not going to get on with it – but I think it’s a really smart way to integrate the club’s multi-coloured branding into one shirt. The numbers look a heck of a lot better shifted up to just below the team name, too.

Unfortunately, this lovely kit didn’t last through to 1998, where it was instead replaced by a shirt that’s known rather unaffectionately by KC fans as “the Charlie Brown”:

American Soccer - MLS - Kansas City Wizards v Colorado Rapids

This unpopular shirt, which looked more like an attempt at a jazzy referee kit than a team’s home strip, was used for two seasons – but it also served as the death knell for the rainbow pattern. The away kit from the second of these years, 1999, was already a sign that design trends were shifting towards something a bit more conservative:

American Soccer - MLS - Tampa Bay Mutiny v Kansas City Wizards

… and by the following year, the team had changed completely to a somewhat bland combination of blue and white. They’d stick with this right through to their 2011 rebranding as the annoyingly-named “Sporting KC”, which did at least bring an impressively lovely new colour scheme.

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