As the Women’s World Cup progresses, keep an eye on the playing surfaces used in the six Canadian host stadiums. Remember how worn the grass fields looked during the 2014 World Cup? That’s not going to happen this time.
“There is no question that, when you play three games in a two-week period on one field, it’s hard to maintain under those conditions,” Mike Sorber, a World Cup veteran who was a member of Team USA in the 1994 World Cup, an alternate on the 1998 team and an assistant coach in 2010, said following the 2014 World Cup. Today, he’s an assistant coach with the MLS’ Philadelphia Union, as well as a fellow FieldTurf blogger. “Weather and use certainly affect field conditions and playing consistency.”
That’s one reason why so many school districts and parks and recreation departments have opted to replace grass soccer fields with multipurpose synthetic fields. Those surfaces don’t see three games in a two-week period; they see three games in a single afternoon!
But soccer, perhaps more so than any other field sport, adheres to the sacred tradition of playing on grass. Talk to high school and college athletic directors at facilities that made the switch from natural grass to synthetic turf, and they’ll tell you that soccer players and coaches are by far the toughest to convince of turf’s attributes.
Here are five key reasons why soccer should be played on artificial turf:
Artificial turf is safer
Despite claims to the contrary from elite players, the findings of a long-term testing program show that FieldTurf is safer than any other synthetic turf system and equal to – if not better than – natural grass in most critical areas of player safety. When it comes to soccer specifically, a peer-reviewed, five-year study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine concluded that women’s college games played on FieldTurf resulted in statistically fewer injuries and fewer severe injuries than those played on natural grass. In short, FieldTurf’s focus on safety has led to numerous injury-reducing innovations and improvements in the world of artificial turf.
It’s costly to keep a grass pitch beautiful
Continual upkeep takes a financial toll, as well as physical one. And while the upfront cost of a turf field is higher than grass, the overall savings in maintenance labor, equipment and supplies alone make that initial price tag much more attractive. And with a 10-year life expectancy, the average cost per hour of field use is drastically reduced. Additionally, the field can be rented out to generate new revenue. Keep in mind that the majority of youth, high school and college players already train and compete on turf, and those who don’t eventually will. As Sorber says, “If good turf fields are available, practices can be run at higher and more consistent levels, which eventually will result in better players”. What is the real cost of a FieldTurf field and how does it compare to natural grass? Try our cost calculator.
Turf is always ready
That means no mud. Ever. Synthetic turf drains consistently and is built for repeat (and often brutal) use. A turf soccer field can be used for more hours per day — and more days and months per year — than grass, in almost any type of weather, with no field-recovery time needed. The World Cup and Women’s World Cup happens once every four years for just a short period of time; soccer games happen in countless communities every day, often lasting all day long and frequently needing to make room for other sports that share the fields. There’s no way grass can stand up to that kind of punishment. Did you know that artificial turf can drain up to 390” of water per hour! Learn more.
Not all artificial turf is created equal.
Don’t let bad experiences with other synthetic surfaces tarnish turf’s image. FieldTurf has made soccer a priority since the company’s inception. After all, soccer is the only major field sport in which the ball stays on the ground almost all the time. That’s why FieldTurf’s surfaces incorporate natural ball performance, optimal energy return and top safety features. The shape of each fiber in the FieldTurf Revolution, for example, contains numerous ridges that run from top to bottom alongside each face of the fiber — eliminating breaking points in individual blades. It’s the closest thing to grass you’ll ever touch and see.
Turf eliminates the use of harmful pesticides and chemicals
Not only does artificial turf reduce maintenance costs such as re-sodding, watering and mowing, but there also is no need to purchase and apply harmful pesticides and herbicides. The recent #keepitreal campaign created to promote soccer on real grass was spearheaded by a leading pesticide company that, in 2012, was ordered to pay more than $6 million in penalties and spend another $2 million on environmental projects after distributing and selling unregistered, canceled or misbranded pesticides (including products with inadequate warnings).