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. 10 things you should know about Premier League new boys Watford

    Apr 27, 2015, 8:08 AM EDT

    Thumbs Up Thumbs Up

    Elton John. American skippers and Harry Potter. Get to know the Hornets ahead of their PL return.

  2. Rodgers unsure whether Sturridge will return for Liverpool this season

    Apr 27, 2015, 7:50 AM EDT

    Manchester City v Liverpool - Premier League Getty Images

    Sturridge and Luis Suarez registered 52 PL goals last season. Liverpool as a team has 47 this season.

  3. MLS Snapshot: New York Red Bulls 1-1 LA Galaxy

    Apr 26, 2015, 7:18 PM EDT

    DC United v New York Red Bulls Getty Images

    Final: New York Red Bulls 1-1 LA Galaxy

  4. Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal uncertain over Wayne Rooney’s knee injury

    Apr 26, 2015, 5:15 PM EDT

    Louis van Gaal & Wayne Rooney, Manchester United Louis van Gaal & Wayne Rooney, Manchester United

    Louis van Gaal unaware of the seriousness of Wayne Rooney’s injury sustained during a 3-0 loss to Everton.

  5. Bayern Munich clinches 25th Bundesliga title due to VfL Wolfsburg’s loss

    Apr 26, 2015, 4:40 PM EDT

    FC Bayern Muenchen - Training & Press Conference Getty Images

    Bayern Munich will enjoy the title as Germany’s best once again.

  6. Sunderland’s Connor Wickham hopes to slip out of closely contested relegation zone

    Apr 26, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT

    connor_wickham Getty Images

    Sunderland midfielder Connor Wickham is eyeing Premier League survival as the last month of the 2014-15 season arrives.

  7. VIDEO: Jose Mourinho positive after 0-0 draw with Arsenal

    Apr 26, 2015, 3:27 PM EDT

    Mourinho Getty Images

    Jose Mourinho was understandibly happy with his side’s defending, despite just the one point.

  8. VIDEO: Roberto Martinez pleased with Everton mentality in Manchester United win

    Apr 26, 2015, 2:54 PM EDT

    Martinez Getty Images

    Everton maintained a solid shape all game and the Toffees boss was loving it.

  9. Jose Mourinho, once again, wins tactical battle against Arsene Wenger

    Apr 26, 2015, 2:12 PM EDT

    Chelsea v Arsenal - Premier League Getty Images

    Mourinho proves his again that his nous, Chelsea’s defensive core, can halt the Gunners.

  10. VIDEO: Aron Johannsson finishes off smooth team goal in 2-0 win over Twente

    Apr 26, 2015, 1:38 PM EDT

    Johannsson Getty Images

    Johansson fed Johannsson as AZ Alkmaar picked up a big win in their chase for a Europa League spot.

  11. Three things we learned from Arsenal vs. Chelsea

    Apr 26, 2015, 1:05 PM EDT

    Arsenal v Chelsea - Premier League Getty Images

    Here’s three things we learned from the Emirates after a lively London derby.

  12. Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea: Organized Blues defending effectively ends title race

    Apr 26, 2015, 12:55 PM EDT

    ChelseaArsenal AP

    There were few good chances as Arsenal could not find a breakthrough and Chelsea opens up a 10-point table lead.

  13. Oscar headed to hospital after thunderous clash with Ospina

    Apr 26, 2015, 12:26 PM EDT

    How did Oscar not win a penalty? Getty Images

    Despite playing 30 minutes after a dangerous clash, Oscar has been sent to the hospital.

  14. Amid thrown fireworks, Torino wins first Turin derby in 20 years

    Apr 26, 2015, 11:43 AM EDT

    Torino Getty Images

    Torino picked up its first win over Juventus in 20 years, but the fans kept it from being a truly happy day.

  15. Watch Live: Arsenal vs Chelsea (Lineups and Live Stream)

    Apr 26, 2015, 10:29 AM EDT

    WengerMourinho AP

    There is no featured striker on the field for Chelsea, with Jose Mourinho instead selecting six midfielders to interchange.

Featured video

Should Chelsea be more entertaining?