Skip to content

The Fake Field Farce

Dec 27, 2012, 8:45 AM EDT

turf Getty Images

The field conditions have always been a stumbling point with World Cup qualifiers. The use of FieldTurf is frowned on, as is the laying of temporary sod that hasn’t had time to settle in.

CONCACAF might have slightly more lenient views when awarding Gold Cup matches, but as far as U.S. Soccer’s concerned, there are enough good, natural turf venues to avoid compromising its field standards. If you have fake turf, you won’t get a real World Cup qualifier.

That view may be changing slightly. As Grant Wahl’s reported, U.S. Soccer is now willing to consider fields like Portland and Seattle’s — the two highest profile FieldTurf venues — provided they carpet their fake stuff with real sod. If U.S. Soccer is confident the natural grass has time to bed in, World Cup qualifying could come to the northwest.

Unfortunately, as this debate regarding Portland and Seattle has evolved, nobody has ever paused to note this is not an actual issue. The complaints of “fake grass”or “artificial turf” are farcical when you walk Jeld-Wen Field and see how games are played. Seattle’s turf used to be a source of player complaints, but this year’s version was much improved. There’s nothing wrong with Portland or Seattle’s fields.

The issue becomes even more ludicrous when you spend a few minutes dribbling a ball on a hastily laid grass field. Seams in the surface are inevitable. Over the course of a few square yards, you’ll get uneven patches. Passes bobble. The surfaces almost never hold up under game conditions, and players are left with more complaints than if they had played on a mediocre synthetic pitch.

This is the alternative to FieldTurf?

To U.S. Soccer’s credit, they don’t seem willing to accept fields that haven’t settled, but at some point, we need to get beyond this whole real versus fake issue. As anybody who has played on good FieldTurf knows, the game may be slightly different, but the quality is the same.

And of course, slight differences in quality exist between natural grass fields. Some play like carpets thanks to the efforts of their groundkeepers. Some play too soft and are torn up within 30 minutes. Others feel rock hard and produce strange bounces. And that doesn’t even take into account the more general fast versus slow differences.

There was a time when an aversion to fake fields was natural, but we’ve evolved beyond that. Thankfully, we’re past the days when players’ career were sacrificed to save money with artificial turf. Nobody in Major League Soccer’s playing on rugs over concrete.

FieldTurf isn’t perfect, but most natural pitches have problems, too. The fake stuff has become good enough to take it fields’ quality on a case-by-case basis. While Jeld-Wen’s field may be perfectly playable, another’s synthetic instance may not.

The whole debate is a farce. We talk about real and fake fields as if they fit into two distinct groups, but when it comes to quality of play and health of the players, that’s no longer the case. Excluding venues become of FieldTurf is an antiquated notion.

While the whole U.S. Soccer vs. Portland and Seattle case is intriguing, at some point somebody should step up and note it’s all based on a fallacy. Synthetic fields aren’t inherently bad.

This isn’t the 80s.

Latest Posts
  1. NWSL Review: The Year Two Exit Interview

    Sep 3, 2014, 1:17 AM EDT

    NWSL logo

    Before you leave for the offseason, NWSL, let’s go over what you’ve accomplished in Year Two.

  2. Preview: Early cycle friendly shelves normal questions for U.S. national team’s return

    Sep 2, 2014, 10:36 PM EDT

    US Men's National Team vs Germany

    The beginning of a long World Cup cycle allows the normal questions to be put aside for Wednesday’s friendly.

  3. PST’s Major League Soccer Power Rankings – The faith-destroying edition

    Sep 2, 2014, 8:48 PM EDT

    Omar Gonzalez

    FC Dallas’s short reign is over, with a familiar name returning to the top spot.

  4. ACL tear brings premature end to Tally Hall’s season

    Sep 2, 2014, 7:15 PM EDT

    2011 MLS Cup - Houston Dynamo Training Session Getty Images

    Houston’s defense suffers a setback, with Hall expected to be sidelined for 6-9 months.

  5. PST’s Major League Soccer Player of the Week: LA Galaxy’s Landon Donovan

    Sep 2, 2014, 6:08 PM EDT

    Philadelphia Union v Los Angeles Galaxy Getty Images

    A one-goal, four-assist week means another legend claims our honor.

  6. What tomorrow’s goalkeeper platoon tells us about the U.S. goalkeeper void

    Sep 2, 2014, 5:18 PM EDT

    Turkey v United States Getty Images

    This was supposed to be Guzan’s audition. Instead, this looks like competition.

  7. Jozy Altidore to captain U.S. Wednesday against Czech Republic

    Sep 2, 2014, 4:05 PM EDT

    Altidore Getty Images

    Altidore’s 72nd cap will feature the U.S.’s armband, with Jurgen Klinsmann having handed his striker the honor for tomorrow’s friendly in Prague.

  8. With Radamel Falcao, can Manchester United challenge for the Premier League?

    Sep 2, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

    Falcao AP

    Colombian hotshot signs for the Red Devils on Deadline Day. Will his move guarantee goals, and maybe more?

  9. EXCLUSIVE: Fresh off his club debut, young Emerson Hyndman takes his USMNT chance in stride

    Sep 2, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT

    Hyndman2 Getty Images

    At just 18 years old, Emerson Hyndman has come through the Fulham youth ranks and is turning heads at all levels. He speaks to ProSoccerTalk about the chances coming all at once.

  10. Spanish defender Cesar Azpilicueta signs new five-year deal at Chelsea

    Sep 2, 2014, 1:01 PM EDT

    Chelsea Training Session and Press Conference Getty Images

    Blues sign full back to new long-term deal at Stamford Bridge.

  11. PHOTO: San Antonio reveal stunning stadium expansion plans, aim for MLS entry

    Sep 2, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    Source: San Antonio Scorpions Source: San Antonio Scorpions

    Scorpions reveal stunning stadium plans, as the latest lower-league side plans for MLS expansion.

  12. Confirmed: Tom Cleverley signs for Aston Villa on season-long loan

    Sep 2, 2014, 11:29 AM EDT

    Chelsea v Manchester United - Premier League Getty Images

    Cleverley arrives at Villa Park after late, late loan move on Deadline Day.

  13. From Prague, with love: Klinsmann previews USA’s friendly vs. Czech Republic

    Sep 2, 2014, 10:23 AM EDT

    Jürgen Klinsmann AP

    Speaking ahead of the USA’s clash in Prague, here’s what Klinsmann had to say.

  14. Captain Bastian: Schweinsteiger named new skipper of Germany

    Sep 2, 2014, 9:47 AM EDT

    Brazil Soccer WCup Germany Argentina AP

    Bayern Munich midfielder to lead Germany after Lahm’s retirement.

  15. Record summer: Breaking the transfer window down, by the numbers

    Sep 2, 2014, 9:08 AM EDT

    Britain Soccer Manchester United Angel Di Maria AP

    Where did the cash go? Who spent the most? Which records tumbled?

  16. Cristiano Ronaldo hits out at Real Madrid’s transfer moves

    Sep 2, 2014, 8:26 AM EDT

    Ancelotti's ability to adjust to Atletico's neutralization of Cristiano Ronaldo is a token of his genius. AP

    Ronaldo’s not happy that Alonso, Di Maria were allowed to leave in the window.

  17. Maradona’s quote after Pope’s inter-religious peace match is priceless

    Sep 1, 2014, 11:30 PM EDT

    201409011528557269254 AP

    “Today two powers were brought together, the hand of God and that of the Pope,” Maradona joked. No, really. That’s what he said.

Featured video

Official: Welbeck signs for Arsenal