It seems generally accepted in the MLS community, if not the US Soccer community, that soccer specific stadiums are key to the growth of soccer in the USA.
The reasons are many, and include everything from the emotionally-relevant display of faith in the sport in this country, to the very practical ownership of parking and other associated revenue streams.
Yet, I sit here watching the second USA National Team match in only a few days taking place in an American football stadium with a temporary grass field laid on top of the normally used artificial turf.
Let’s be clear, these are not good playing surfaces.
With regard to Saturday’s game against Spain in Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA, Boston Herald and MLS writer Kyle McCarthy posted this on Twitter: As one might suspect,the ball dies once it plops down on the temporary grass surface at Gillette. Chunks coming up as well. #usmnt
Tonight’s match in Detroit under a similar surface drew similar commentary.
Sports Illustrated writer and best-selling author Grant Wahl’s views on Twitter didn’t provide a much better view of the situation in Detroit, he said: Know what the fake turf in Seattle is like when it’s wet? This temporary grass field in Detroit is the opposite.
As I just watched tonight’s Gold Cup game, Carlos Bocanegra slipped down while creating a divot in a chunking turf that nearly led to a scoring opportunity for Canada and luckily did not lead to an injury.
Ironically, one reason it might not have led to a goal is it looked like the Canadian player who went around him, Will Johnson of Real Salt Lake I believe, looked to struggle to control the ball, and was staring down at the turf seemingly suggesting it did him no favors either.
While all this is going on, Sporting KC of MLS is about to open its brand new (and quite nice looking) stadium this week, which serves as an immediate reminder that there’s another way.
As the soccer community benefits from some “big bets” that MLS owners and investors are making, isn’t it time we repay the favor? It would be as simple as a declaration that US Soccer matches and key competitions will be held Soccer Specific Stadiums with a natural grass surface.
Not having such a stadium near me, this certainly isn’t said with any personal goal in mind. But let the Revolution deal with Gillette, US Soccer has choices.
Sure, there’s an economic argument against it, with the greater capacity still existing in the American football stadiums. Guess what, there were probably economic arguments against building the soccer specific stadiums as well. But it happened.
There are probably concerns relative to location, with some soccer specific stadiums located in areas that would often lead to away-team atmospheres against some opponents. Sure, if we play Mexico in Dallas or Los Angeles, that’s a pretty big challenge.
But first, we don’t only play Mexico (yes, there are other teams that bring this challenge as well), and second, play them in Columbus or Kansas City. Or, let’s just beat the pants off them and win those fans over.
Without data I cannot be sure of this, but I’m going to guess that there would be US Soccer supporter and MLS season ticket advance sales that could go a long way to ensuring some semblance of a pro-USA crowd. Or at least minimize any potential disadvantage.
Whatever the concerns, it’s time get the US Men’s National Team and key competitions on grass fields and in soccer stadiums.
US Soccer, lets pay back the investors that have bet on soccer in the USA, provide our team and the teams that come here with a reasonable playing surface, and reward fans with a wonderful atmosphere and a better looking game played on an appropriate surface.
Otherwise, let’s be honest with everyone and just admit that what matters are the gate receipts. And if that’s all you care about, let me know when Sepp and friends revote on 2022, maybe then we can negotiate a different approach.
Until that point, let’s use “our” stadiums.