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. VIDEO: Internacional player flips off his own fans, gets sent off

    Apr 1, 2015, 10:14 PM EDT

    Fabricio, Sport Club Internacional Fabricio, Sport Club Internacional

    Not one, but two middle fingers to your own fans earns you a red card, sir.

  2. AC Milan, Hello Kitty announce partnership, exclusive clothing collection

    Apr 1, 2015, 9:43 PM EDT

    AC Milan, Hello Kitty AC Milan, Hello Kitty

    AC Milan + Hello Kitty = the strangest soccer story of the week, right?

  3. Andros Townsend was “desperate” to tweet his biggest critic after goal vs. Italy

    Apr 1, 2015, 7:47 PM EDT

    Andros Townsend, England Getty Images

    This is a strange one: footballer admits to thinking about tweet to critic while still game in which he scored.

  4. Bayern Munich’s David Alaba has torn MCL, hopes to return for Champions League, German Cup

    Apr 1, 2015, 6:22 PM EDT

    David Alaba, Bayern Munich & Austria David Alaba, Bayern Munich & Austria

    A serious knee injury at the business end of the season? Terrible news, though Alaba hopes to return for a pair of cup finals.

  5. CONCACAF World Cup qualifying: Patrick Kluivert leads Curacao to second round

    Apr 1, 2015, 5:58 PM EDT

    Patrick Kluivert, Curacao Patrick Kluivert, Curacao

    The first of CONCACAF’s five WCQ rounds is complete, and there’s a world-famous name leading one Caribbean minnow into the next round.

  6. What will Jurgen Klinsmann’s USMNT roster look like for 2015 Gold Cup?

    Apr 1, 2015, 5:15 PM EDT

    USMNT, 2013 Gold Cup champions USMNT, 2013 Gold Cup champions

    The USMNT kicks off its 2015 Gold Cup campaign in 97 days. What’s the roster going to look like? Who’s the surprising “ins” and “outs”?

  7. April Fools! The top gags that actually fooled soccer fans on this day

    Apr 1, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    Sepp Blatter, FIFA president Sepp Blatter, FIFA president

    April Fools’ Day jokes — everybody’s got them, and while most aren’t funny, a few people came through with good ones today.

  8. PST’s Premier League award predictions: Here’s our Player of the Season

    Apr 1, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Getty Images

    One little magician has been sublime all season. He’s our consensus pick, but who do you choose?

  9. Should Eden Hazard sign for Bayern Munich? Franck Ribery thinks so…

    Apr 1, 2015, 2:28 PM EDT

    Belgium v France - International Friendly Belgium v France - International Friendly

    Ribery is a big fan of Hazard. Should the Chelsea wing-wizard replace the Frenchman at Bayern?

  10. PST’s Premier League award predictions: Here’s our Coach of the Season

    Apr 1, 2015, 1:58 PM EDT

    Southampton v Chelsea - Premier League Getty Images

    PST’s writers select their coach of the year candidate with the end of season awards coming up fast.

  11. PST’s Premier League award predictions: Here’s our Young Player of the Season

    Apr 1, 2015, 12:58 PM EDT

    We select our Young Player of the season. Do you agree with the consensus selection?

  12. Raheem Sterling turns down Liverpool deal, says he’s not “money-grabbing 20-year-old”

    Apr 1, 2015, 12:25 PM EDT

    Liverpool v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League Getty Images

    Sterling has spoken out about his current contract situation. It’s fascinating stuff.

  13. PST’s Premier League award predictions: Here’s our Team of the Season

    Apr 1, 2015, 11:20 AM EDT

    Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Getty Images

    PST’s writers pick their team of the season, so far… Agree? Disagree?

  14. Who were biggest winners, losers from USMNT’s March friendlies?

    Apr 1, 2015, 10:35 AM EDT

    Which players did themselves the world of good in March for the U.S.? Here’s a gander.

  15. FIFA president Sepp Blatter is “ready to change.” Do we believe this?

    Apr 1, 2015, 9:45 AM EDT

    Blatter Getty Images

    Chairman of Bayern Munich, ECA, believes Blatter is ready to change his ways.

  16. Andros Townsend silences critics after superb goal for England. Can he kick on?

    Apr 1, 2015, 9:10 AM EDT

    Spurs winger scores stunner to silence doubters. Now, can he keep it up?

  17. Transfer gossip: De Bruyne to Manchester City, Walcott to Chelsea

    Apr 1, 2015, 8:01 AM EDT

    Arsenal v Leicester City - Premier League Getty Images

    Here are the latest rumors involving Premier League clubs.

  18. Euro qualifying at its midpoint: Predicting the 19 automatic qualifiers

    Mar 31, 2015, 11:05 PM EDT

    David Alaba AP

    The top two teams in each group will advance, while the best third-place side will also advance.

  19. On Jurgen Klinsmann and Michael Bradley and “playing out of position”

    Mar 31, 2015, 9:26 PM EDT

    Switzerland v USA - International Friendly Getty Images

    As bizarre as this is to read, Michael Bradley didn’t register a single helper for the States until 2011. In the Klinsmann era, he has 12.

Featured video

Week 30: Headline PL moment