Shot Callers: Riley Mahoney, Senior Merchandise Manager, MLS at adidas

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With Major League Soccer beginning its 25th season, the league worked with its jersey provider adidas to design new jerseys for each of the league’s 26 clubs.

Riley Mahoney, senior merchandise manager at adidas for MLS, joins Ian Thomas to discuss the new threads for the 2020 season and the thought that went into designing them.

Edited highlights appear below:

On the approach to the jerseys for this season (0:18)

Mahoney: “Really this journey started back in 2018. It’s a two-year process to get these jerseys to market and as we looked at the 25th celebration of the league, we went deep into our archives and pulled out the EQT designs. EQT was instrumental for football, for soccer, in the early nineties when you think about it being on the back of the U.S. Men’s National Team in ’92, we knew that this was the design we wanted to go with. So you see a league-wide EQT striping and extended collar – the 90s are in, retro is in, and it really helps authenticate that 25th celebration story and really brings it from authenticity to progression and making sure we’re celebrating that with the league fully.”

About the design process working with the clubs and the league (1:06)

Mahoney: “It’s a huge collaboration between the clubs, between the leagues, between our team in Germany, as well as locally. We have six designers that sit in Hertzo at our headquarters. These designers work on Manchester United, on Arsenal, on Real Madrid, on all of our federations, and they also support us on the league. So the same designer who did the Atlanta United kit also did the Real Madrid kit that just launched.”

“It starts with the clubs. They have the opportunity to give us a brief with mood boards, with what they want to come to life with, what they want the jersey to really look and feel like. That goes through the adidas lens for our creation for the season. For 2020, it was all about the unification of art and football. So you’ll see a lot of hand-drawn brushstroke graphics, making that beautiful game, the beautiful jersey come to life.”

“We then present a couple options back to the club. They get an opportunity to provide feedback and then we start getting into the sample rounds. We’ll start tweaking things a little bit. You think about a league of 26 teams in 24 different cities. We want to make sure that every jersey is unique and every jersey is a true reflection of the city, of the fan base, and of course of the club.”

On the growth of the relationship between MLS and adidas (2:24)

Mahoney: “We’ve been the sole supplier of the kits since 2005. We just signed a new extension through 2024, so it’s a partnership we massively believe in and something we’re super excited about. When you think about the opportunity to shape what soccer looks like, not just in the U.S. but all of North America, and then taking that down to the kids, to the academies, and then expanding the game globally and making sure that whether you’re in Latin America or in Western Europe, you understand the importance of the league and the quality on the field, but also in the product we bring to life.”

On the growth of the game locally and globally (3:22)

Mahoney: “You think about, what football means, I think we all grew up playing tiny tots or little kickers. It’s really the sport that we’re all introduced to first. I consider myself to be one of the luckiest men alive, to have the opportunity to sit and help shape the future of soccer. The league is starting to invest in huge facilities and also investing in academies, world-class facilities, world-class coaches that can come in and help shape the future of soccer. Yes, we have signings like Chicharito, Zlatan came over, but the future generation is really 14, 16, 18…They’re going to be the ones that lead us into the 2026 world cup and start to represent the country and become the feeders.”

“…If you look at our partnership with the league, we invest just as heavily in those grassroots initiatives because that’s really where the heart of soccer lives.”