After the World Cup, Nike unveiled what we all knew was coming: a three-star jersey.
And not just a three-star jersey, but men's cut three-star jerseys, rectifying a longstanding failing of Nike Soccer and USSF to acknowledge that men can be fans of the women's national team too.
But then customers started receiving e-mails telling them their pre-orders had been cancelled. You can't find a men's cut three-star at the US Soccer Store or at Nike's online store.
As published by Bloomberg Business, the most recent justification for this decision was that people might get confused and believe that Nike was claiming the men's national team had won the World Cup. Nike would consider selling women's jerseys in men's cut if the MNT and the WNT had different jersey designs (which goes against USSF's attempt to impose a "One Nation, One Team" aesthetic).
That is, of course, nonsense. Either a person looking at that jersey knows that the stars represent World Cup wins, in which case they are also likely to know that the U.S. men have not won a World Cup, or a person doesn't know what the stars stand for, in which case there's no confusion to be had. It's a flimsy excuse, as excuses go.
Youth jerseys are available with three stars and are only unisex. Isn't Nike afraid that someone will look at a boy in that jersey and believe the wrong national team won some World Cups?
What's more likely is that the cost-benefit doesn't work out for Nike. There isn't enough demand for them to financially justify making WNT jerseys in men's cut. Which begs the question, just how much does it cost to embroider some stars above a crest? If you accept that "it's confusing" is a really bad excuse, then with MNT and WNT jerseys being the same, doesn't that in fact lower costs for Nike? They don't have to manufacture two separate designs for USSF, just the same design for youth, women's, and men's cuts.
When asked for comment, a Nike representative had this to say:
"The men's version of the US Women's National team ‘three-star' jersey was available for pre-order following their World Cup win. After the jerseys sold out at the U.S. Soccer online store, some fans were informed via email that their previously reserved product was unfortunately no longer available for purchase. We're investigating the best way to rectify this for those customers."
When pressed on why the pre-orders were canceled, this was the response:
"The particular US Soccer shop pre-orders that were cancelled were cancelled because the product sold out. As for whether we 'will ever' produce a three-star for men, the reference to sell-through of the men's kit in this instance exemplifies that we have already."
The rep wouldn't comment on how many pre-orders they received for the men's cut three-star jersey, and "investigating the best way to rectify this" is about as vague as it gets.
This statement is word-for-word what the US Soccer Store told Vice Sports. So it seems like there's a party line here, and reps are sticking to that party line, with no further comment on why or if Nike will make more jerseys for men who want to support the WNT.
This is as disappointing as it is shortsighted. Either the volume of pre-orders was so high that it exhausted Nike's stock or they simply didn't make enough jerseys because they didn't anticipate that there would be such a demand. Either situation indicates that there's a market they're not tapping.
Women's soccer is growing. It's not just little girls and women who grew up playing the sport; adults, men and women, appreciate the game for what it is now. Men's-cut jerseys for the WNT shouldn't be a one-off based on a special event like the World Cup. It's ok for men to support women's sports. Guys are literally trying to give you money, Nike and US Soccer. Shut up and take the money.