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The Issue with Turf: Injuries, and the Women’s Game

How turf fields affect various aspects of the soccer world.

MLS: Toronto FC at Orlando City SC Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

On this week’s The Mane Land PawedCast, Michael Citro and I agreed that turf is bad, and grass is good. I know that is a really hot take, but we stand by it. We started talking about it in relation to Nani not making the trip to Atlanta. Mercedes-Benz Stadium has an artificial turf football field. The club has stated that the reason Nani did not travel is due to a calf injury. As I write this, Nani tweeted out the following:

It seems that his calf injury is bad enough to keep him home from the Seattle trip as well. CenturyLink Field is a turf stadium. I’m not saying that Nani has “turf flu,” but you can’t completely rule it out either, can you? There have been world class players that have come to MLS, and not played in games on turf due to various ailments. I can’t really blame them, either. There’s a reason that the top leagues in the world play strictly on grass.

When Orlando City made its bid for MLS, part of the deal was building a soccer-specific stadium. There seems to be some inconsistency regarding that hurdle for other clubs that have joined since Orlando City, some of which currently have turf fields. To be fair, the Lions played in the Citrus Bowl to start, but Orlando City Stadium was in the planning. Playing matches on natural grass fields will be an important step if MLS is to be taken seriously by the other leagues throughout the world.

All of this got me thinking about the Women’s World Cup. In the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, there were several stadiums with turf fields that the best women in the world had to play on. Can you imagine the men’s teams doing that during a World Cup? Neither can I. Fortunately, the stadiums being used in France this year all have grass fields. That wasn’t by design, but rather happy coincidence. Have no doubt, FIFA would have been fine if they had to play on turf. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, the women’s game (especially the USWNT) is every bit as good as the men’s game, and should be given the same consideration regarding the playing surface.

I don’t expect anything to happen quickly in regards to fixing this issue. After all, FIFA and MLS are not known for being organizations that embrace rapid change, however it does need to be addressed. Hopefully, the women keep speaking up about it, and big stars keep getting “injuries” (keeping them off nationally broadcast games in Seattle, Atlanta, New England, etc.) so that the powers that be feel monetarily obligated to make the necessary changes.