Skip to content

My favorite all-time Christmas present: Classic National Team gear

Dec 24, 2012, 6:00 PM EST

m6r4dvOJspOxvKEoGDJE8Dg

Eddie Pope has become a litmus test. Recognize his greatness, and you’ve been around. Remember him as the player you saw in Major League Soccer? At least you’ve been here that long.

Don’t know him at all? Oh, boy. Let me get the first round. We’re going to be here a while, because when I wear a U.S. Men’s National Team kit with “Pope, 23″ on the back, it’s a statement.

He’s not on television every week like some of his peers, so the relative anonymity for the former national team defender makes some sense. His current role as Director of Player Relations for MLS’s Players Union also keeps him out of the limelight, a place he probably prefers, though it keeps his legacy from being trumpeted. Because he was always a quite person, many fans don’t remember how truly brilliant he was.

Lalas got the fame. And Marcelo Balboa got the goals. All Pope got was respect.

Many of his teammates still refer to him as one of the most underrated talents of his generation. With the athleticism of a converted midfielder, Pope was the cornerstone of Bruce Arena’s back lines, his skill, speed, and athleticism allowing him to play in the middle of three-man defenses the U.S. has scarcely employed since.

He was the best defender the U.S. has ever had, and since he retired from international soccer six years ago, nobody has come particularly close.

Not everybody agrees, but these are the types of discussions born from U.S. Soccer’s mid-90s ascension, a rise that brought the program in from 40 years in the international wilderness. Who was better: Tab Ramos or Claudio Reyna? Brad Friedel or Kasey Keller? What was the best way to use Eric Wynalda? And how good would he have been if he his international career match up better with Brian McBride’s?

If you have a friend in soccer, you’ve undoubtedly talked these things through. And that’s why a classic national team kit is the ultimate holiday gift. No gift will be received better than one which says, “Friends remember other friends’ favorite national team player.” And since you’ve spent ours upon hours talking about each others’ favorites, there’ll be no doubt which kit to get.

source:  Or if the women’s national team holds a tighter gip on your (or your friend’s) heart, there’s nothing better than finding a kit to commemorate USA `99. A “Hamm 9,” “Akers 10″ or “Lilly 13″ will earn a lot of soccer hipster cred. Even if you prefer some attachment to the current national team squad, a “Rampone 3″ is a way to subtly, snobbishly flaunt your recognition of the team’s roots.

Unfortunately, these type of gifts are difficult to come by. If you’re truly committed to getting an authentic kit, you’ll have to be persistent, checking Ebay regularly in addition to trying to track down something through more conventional stores. For example, the last time an Eddie Pope national team jersey hit the market was mid-November (though a Mia Hamm kit did clear two days ago).

And if you can’t track down an old school version, you can always customize a current kit via U.S. Soccer’s website, a move that has the underlying cache of saying, “This player? I still want him on the team today.” Because you are a knowledgable soccer fan, after all.

And for a soccer fan, there’s no better moment than opening the box you’re sure will be a sweater only to see it’s a kit – the exact opposite end of the clothing excitement spectrum. If you’re smart about it, pack the kit with the player’s name out so all the shock arrives at once. Then, as you see them hurriedly pull the jersey over their shoulders, you’ll know you’ve given the perfect soccer present.

Latest Posts
  1. Analyzing the Impact/Red Bulls deal: Is Kljestan worth losing Alexander?

    Jan 27, 2015, 11:01 PM EST

    New York Red Bulls v FC Dallas Getty Images

    Already it feels like Montreal has a major chance to be the winner in this deal, and that’s before they do anything with the allocation money.

  2. Tuesday’s transfer rumor roundup: LVG squashes Januzaj loan, Campbell heads to La Liga

    Jan 27, 2015, 10:05 PM EST

    Januzaj Getty Images

    It certainly wasn’t the wildest of days for the transfer rumor mill, but Manchester United, Southampton and Crystal Palace all said hello.

  3. Rodgers proud of Liverpool in loss, disappointed by Costa’s dirty play

    Jan 27, 2015, 9:12 PM EST

    Chelsea v Liverpool - Capital One Cup Semi-Final: Second Leg Getty Images

    Surely Brendan Rodgers wouldn’t have been surprised to see Diego Costa’s temper flare up, but it didn’t make him any more understanding.

  4. Report: Arsenal midfielder Zelalem’s U.S. eligibility far from a done deal

    Jan 27, 2015, 8:32 PM EST

    Galatasaray AS v Arsenal FC - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    An ESPN FC report regarding Gedion Zelalem’s U.S. eligibility looks alarming, but is it a cause for concern?

  5. In less than five months, Diego Costa has become Premier League villain No. 1

    Jan 27, 2015, 7:17 PM EST

    FBL-ENG-LCUP-CHELSEA-LIVERPOOL Getty Images

    He’s heinous. He’s prolific. He’s the Luis Suarez of 2015. And he’s making this season worth watching and hating. Unless you’re a Chelsea supporter.

  6. Chelsea’s Mourinho candid as usual after Liverpool win: “My Ramires is back”

    Jan 27, 2015, 6:21 PM EST

    Chelsea v Liverpool - Capital One Cup Semi-Final: Second Leg Getty Images

    Liverpool was the superior team in the first 45 minutes, but couldn’t find the finishing touch.

  7. Chelsea 1-0 Liverpool: Ivanovic ensures Blues trip to Cup final after testy second leg

    Jan 27, 2015, 5:17 PM EST

    Chelsea v Liverpool - Capital One Cup Semi-Final: Second Leg Getty Images

    The Blues won 1-0 on the match and 2-1 on aggregate to move on the League Cup final versus Wednesday’s winner of Spurs and Sheffield United.

  8. Africa Cup of Nations roundup: Ghana and Algeria go through to the knockout rounds

    Jan 27, 2015, 4:12 PM EST

    Equatorial Guinea Soccer African Cup AP

    Six of eight knockout round slots are filled for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, and a couple well-known names are going home.

  9. VIDEO: Hosts Australia set up Asian Cup final against South Korea

    Jan 27, 2015, 3:00 PM EST

    FBL-ASIA2015-AUS-UAE FBL-ASIA2015-AUS-UAE

    The Socceroos reached the AFC final for just the second-time in their history.

  10. DeAndre Yedlin on call up to U.S. national team, time at Tottenham so far

    Jan 27, 2015, 2:20 PM EST

    Seattle Sounders v Los Angeles Galaxy Seattle Sounders v Los Angeles Galaxy

    Yedlin flies halfway around the world to link up with USMNT after joining Tottenham in January.

  11. Barcelona’s Neymar reveals Olympic gold medal dream, hopes for Brazil in Rio 2016

    Jan 27, 2015, 1:40 PM EST

    Brazil's Neymar poses with his silver me Brazil's Neymar poses with his silver me

    Brazilian skipper aims to help Brazil win elusive Olympic gold medal on home soil.

  12. Stoke City star Bojan to miss rest of 2014-15 season with knee injury

    Jan 27, 2015, 12:57 PM EST

    Rochdale v Stoke City - FA Cup Fourth Round Getty Images

    Spaniard set to miss at least six months after rupturing anterior cruciate ligament.

  13. New York, Montreal complete huge trade; Kljestan free to join Red Bulls

    Jan 27, 2015, 12:19 PM EST

    Sacha Kljestan, international man of mustache Sacha Kljestan, international man of mustache

    Monster trade sees cash, players and allocation order’s dished out as USMNT midfielder could be heading home.

  14. League Cup semifinals: Chelsea, Liverpool level; Spurs take slender lead to Sheffield

    Jan 27, 2015, 11:10 AM EST

    Wembley final on the line: Premier League giants clash at the Bridge while Spurs head to third-tier Blades.

  15. Real Madrid reveals FIFA investigating 51 of its youth transfers

    Jan 27, 2015, 9:20 AM EST

    Emilio Butragueno, Martin Odegaard Emilio Butragueno, Martin Odegaard

    Madrid say they have “responded diligently” to requests from world soccer’s governing body.

  16. Silly season in full swing: Is Raheem Sterling really heading to Chelsea?

    Jan 27, 2015, 8:30 AM EST

    Raheem Sterling, Liverpool FC Raheem Sterling, Liverpool FC

    As Sterling continues to stall on a new deal, will Chelsea tempt the youngster with a move back to London?

  17. Iker Casillas to MLS? Real Madrid legend: “I would like to play in the United States”

    Jan 27, 2015, 7:36 AM EST

    iker_casillas AP

    Casillas declares his intention to play in the USA one day. When will that be?

  18. Hope Solo could be left off USWNT’s 2015 World Cup team, says Sunil Gulati

    Jan 26, 2015, 9:45 PM EST

    Hope Solo, USWNT Hope Solo, USWNT

    Hope Solo’s punishment for repeated alcohol-related incidents could extend much further than her initial 30-day suspension.

  19. Real Salt Lake’s Joao Plata to undergo surgery on broken foot, miss start of season

    Jan 26, 2015, 8:22 PM EST

    Joao Plata, Real Salt Lake Joao Plata, Real Salt Lake

    3-4 months on the sidelines means a massive hole to fill to start the 2015 season.

Featured video

Top five Premier League goals: Week 22