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Buying jerseys with a name on it can be risky: Here’s a guide to choosing wisely

For soccer jerseys, one of the biggest considerations is what player/number to get on the back, if any

Philadelphia Union's 2017 Away kits
Philadelphia Union’s 2017 Away kits
Philadelphia Union Communications

Every year, the Philadelphia Union release a new line of jerseys which signal the beginning of a new season. Fan excitement is at its highest and many fans rush to purchase the newest edition of their favorite team’s kit.

There are many different motivations, however, for buying the newest jersey for any team. For many fans, buying the newest jersey is the ultimate show of commitment to the team.

To some, new jerseys are an opportunity to add to a growing collection of their favorite players and teams. For many others, a cool jersey is the first introduction they may have to the team and buying the jersey is the first step in their journey as a fan. No matter your motivations, wearing a jersey in public is a commitment and a public display of loyalty. This is an important choice, with some different factors to consider.

For soccer jerseys, one of the biggest consideration is what player/number to get on the back, if any. Here I will outline a few different categories that you should consider when deciding on the player you want to represent on the back of your shirt, in order of lowest to highest risk.

Photo by Morgan Tencza

1. Current Star

The current star is the centerpiece of the team, the designated player, the All Star. This is often the safest choice, as there will be little backlash when showing up to the stadium rocking this player’s jersey. Even better, this jersey will remain relevant for years to come. In 5 years, nobody will look back poorly on your decision to buy a 2020 Alejandro Bedoya Union jersey so if you are a brand new fan, this is often the first jersey you get as you just want to rock a player but don’t yet know much about the team as a whole.

The Philadelphia Union’s Chris Pontius celebrates his goal against the New York Red Bulls with Sebastien Le Toux,
The Philadelphia Union’s Chris Pontius celebrates his goal against the New York Red Bulls with Sebastien Le Toux,
Trey Madara / Brotherly Game

2. The Hall of Famer Throwback

In the world of soccer kits, 2019-2020 was marked by jersey manufacturers around the globe designing jerseys with the ‘90s in mind. As the retro soccer jersey market becomes more and more relevant, many fans would rather buy a 10-year-old jersey with a player who became a club legend because it brings back memories of the past. Also, these jerseys are usually cool and signal that you are a longtime fan. You will definitely get some compliments walking into Subaru Park with a Sebastien Le Toux jersey. This low risk option shouldn’t be the first jersey you buy, but one after you have a strong collection of your team.

Philadelphia Union v Los Angeles Football Club Photo by Shaun Clark/Getty Images

3. Newest Signing

The newest signing is the bright and shiny object of your club. For the Union, this may be Jakob Glesnes, Jamiro Monteiro (kinda), or El Brujo. In soccer, club’s make signings every year and many of whom turn into club legends, but many do not. This jersey will signal that yes, you followed the team in the offseason through al the ups and downs of the transfer market and are excited for the new season. While this jersey comes with some risks, it is still a relatively safe pick.

MLS: MLS Cup Playoffs-Round One-New York Red Bulls at Philadelphia Union Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

4. The Young Gun

The Young Gun is someone who maybe isn’t a household name yet, but you are hoping they become an All-Star. For the Union, this may be Brenden Aaronson, Mark McKenzie or Anthony Fontana. This is a risky jersey purchase as they are likely to be sold to another team. If they are sold to a team in Europe, then a 2020 jersey with their name is a fantastic throwback in 5 years’ time when you watch them play Saturday mornings in one of the big European Leagues. This is also risky because as we all know, young promising players don’t always pan out. It will be disappointing in a couple of years to be reminded of the promise they showed but never materialized when looking back on your 2020 Union jersey.

MLS: Philadelphia Union at New England Revolution Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

5. The Cult Hero

The Cult Hero is someone who is beloved by fans but is not necessarily the team’s best player. I’m looking at you Ray Gaddis. Repping Ray Gaddis in 2020 will certainly signal you are in tune with fan perspectives and are a diehard fan, but many people would rather spend their money purchasing the team’s best player than a cult hero. This jersey is for those with a plethora of Union jerseys and are looking for something different- but is a very risky option.

Women’s adidas Navy 2020 Forever Faithful Replica Jersey for $90

6. Your Name

This option is last on my list simply because I hope to convince people over the age of 15 to avoid this at all costs. It is a completely fine, often encouraged option to get your children’s name on the back of a Union #9 jersey when they are younger. But walking around with your last name on a 2020 Union kit will make you look silly, and no matter what, is a waste of money.

Even if you have no desire to collect, trade, or resell your jerseys, 5 years from now if your jersey no longer fits, there is no chance there is any resale value in a custom jersey.

With all of that in mind, with any player jersey there is a chance the player does something, such as leave the Union and sign for Red Bulls which will forever tarnish his legacy with the Union, highlighting the level of risk with any player’s name you purchase. I personally have seen plenty of Robin Van Persie Arsenal jersey’s floating around Ebay, which just shows you never know what will happen with even our most beloved players. I personally, usually stick with blank jerseys, just to ensure I always have positive memories of my jerseys, and avoid any chance of whiffing on a player.