MLS Cheapens Soccer Viewing Experience By Playing Games On Gridiron Lines [PHOTOS]

If Major League Soccer wants to be taken seriously, it needs to come up with a better solution than playing high-profile playoff games on fields featuring gridiron lines.

By playing games like these on fields that are prioritized for American football, it cheapens the MLS game, and makes TV viewers feel like they’re watching a second-class sport.

Tonight’s double-header of New England against Sporting Kansas, followed by Seattle-Portland were both played on fields for NFL teams.

MLS has been in business for more than 17 years. Surely by now they could have come up with a solution of how to resolve this eyesore.

The photos below show the field for New England’s home match, while the above photo is from Seattle-Portland.


86 thoughts on “MLS Cheapens Soccer Viewing Experience By Playing Games On Gridiron Lines [PHOTOS]”

  1. Wish I could say it really doesn’t matter – I watch plenty of local footy on lined fields too – but it really does look sh*te. A stadium pitch should not look like a high school gym floor.


  2. Honestly even worse is what goes on for the players, playing with those lines is really confusing. I know whenever I play and the lines arent proper it is hard to differentiate, the play till the whistle rule is nice but it is really confusing at times.

  3. for all you mls lovers the picture shows just how small your league of your flagship teams(seattle) in the playoffs and you get a headache trying to figure out the lines.what a Fing joke enjoy your soccer in the minor league.:)

    1. the hate seems a little over the top- we live in the USA this our league. I agree this is a negative but I don’t get why first of all you care enough to be so passionate in your hatred, you clearly don’t like our league and you don’t have to so why comment over and over again -what’s the point? Superiority? Fine your da man but this is our league so yes we support our teams even if on a crappy field –

      if you want some across the pond advice on your end we could talk about this whole Royal family thing- or Premier League Darts Leagues-cricket etc but my guess is you really don’t want to know what Americans think about your affairs- we’re no different

      I love the MLS – shoot me

  4. How anyone at MLS thinks this is acceptable is beyond belief? Having your own stadium should be a minimum requirement to be in MLS.

    1. really? so Seattle should move out of a stadium where it averages over 40k per match and drop hundreds of millions of dollars into a 20,000 seat stadium so you don’t have to look at NFL lines? That’s the plan to make the league more sustainable?

  5. What solution would anybody offer? The league is less than two decades old. They have built numerous soccer-specific stadiums. They have moved out of onerous lease agreements that drained their franchises of millions of dollars in revenue. They have steadily built up attendance numbers. Consider where this sport was in this country less than 20 years ago and compare that to where MLS is today and while it’s not perfect, I don’t see how any rational person can complain about its progress.

    1. What gets my goat, is the “Soccer Specific” stadiums in Dallas & Houston have markings because they are leasing out to HS Football.
      I literally stopped watching any games when I saw Gridiron lines, and I want to support the MLS and see it continue to grow. But the clubs must not whore out their stadiums to that other game.

      1. The problem with the “SSS” is that poor misnomer. Their are designed for a primary function as soccer. For the stadia built with public funds, they are going to have other uses. This is the case with Toyota Park in Dallas.

  6. I pretty much never watch MLS (always watching EPL). The one night I decide to watch a game and I see this S**T. Enough said.

  7. sorry to all the mls lovers i’m not PC call a spade a spade.that product tonight is atrocious no putting lipstick on that pig.i’ll stick with the best football in the world the EPL.

    1. I do not think that people who watch the MLS believe that the league is in the same discussion as the EPL.

      However people who support the MLS get frustrated by unreasonable expectations by those who lambaste it by comparing it to football associations that have been around for more 150 years.

      1. i agree but because i watch the EPL and not the mls i am a eurosnob is that fair.kind of hard since i was born and raised in America.

          1. He was not calling himself a Eurosnob. He was referring to the fact that those who prefer the EPL are often derogatively called Eurosnobs by others.

      2. MLS was founded in 1993, one year after the Premier League was formed in 1992. To be honest, I’m getting tired of MLS fans making excuses about the league. The league has been playing for 17 seasons. That’s plenty of time to make positive changes.

        1. are you serious- so there was no Professional soccer in England prior to 1992? It just started up from nothing did it- that is the shockingly single stupidest I’ve ever read on this site and from the administrator – Hey GAFFER old boy there’s planes leaving every hour- no ones holding you hostage-

          with this comment your site clearly demonstrates why your site should stay far away from covering the league- you know nothing about this country’s sports history and evolution

          1. I didn’t say there was no professional soccer in England prior to 1992. I made a comparison between leagues.

            I’ve lived in this country since 1984, and intimately know the country’s sports history and evolution.

            I’m being critical, yes. But I’m pointing out issues that MLS needs to address. There are far too many MLS apologists out there who can’t take criticism, and are extremely defensive when MLS is criticized.

        2. Be fair… the franchises in the Premier League had a history well before 1993. Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and their brands just didn’t spring up in 1992. How can you possibly look at MLS in 2013 and say there haven’t been positive changes? What would you call all the Soccer Specific Stadiums and financial stability?

          1. I agree there have been positive changes, but what I meant is that there haven’t been *enough* positive changes.

            The issues in MLS are not club specific (except for Chivas USA). The majority of teams in MLS have done an excellent job of creating an affordable and entertaining experience on a local market level. But the issues the league are facing, and have been unable or unwilling to correct, are at the MLS league office level.

            I addressed many of the issues the league has in my recent article at

    2. name 1 person who compared MLS to EPL? No one that’s who

      your solution would be close down the league and have no professional soccer in the USA- ok sure- your not PC fine but you also are rather insulting and condesending

    3. The Seattle / Portland game was very entertaining if would have watched beyond the lines. Its definitely less then ideal, but its also the first time in like 4 years they’ve played with football markings there. Everyone knows MLS isn’t at the level of the premier league… But its not bad, and continually getting better.

      Now for my own personal pet peeve. I hear all the time from American fans they watch the EPL because its the best in the world, as you contend. I love watching the EPL… I watch 3 games a week on average… But you just throw out a blanket statement that it is the best league in the world. Its the most accessible league in the world, yes. Teams from Serie A, La Liga, and Bundesliga have more champions league wins then any EPL team. Currently the best player on the best team in the EPL was transferred from La Liga where he couldn’t make the first XI regularly. There are teams from other leagues with as many finalists for the ballon d’or as the entire EPL. So what makes the EPL the best? So if teams play in other leagues, and better players play in other leagues what exactly makes the EPL the best in the world? Parity? By that metric, the MLS would be a better league since there is nowhere with more.

  8. A regular season game would be bad enough but this is supposed to be the high profile playoffs…lol MLS can’t take it serious enough to have the game represented properly.

    Surely there is some FIFA regulation about a pitch and it’s markings needing to be predominant / unobscured or at least without graphics on the field of play.

    It visually underpins the reality that footbal is not respected enough for the professional league to prepare a field correctly.

    Pretty sad.

        1. You mean this rule.

          • has part of each foot either on the touch line or on the ground
          “outside” the touch line

          Do you think they meant outside the touch line nut on the field?

          Sure with your body behind the line your foot can touch the line.

          The intent of the rule is not for you to step on the field and have your heel touching the line with the rest of your foot or body over the line.

          You throw the ball from BEHIND the line, and your foot is allowed to touch the line when throwing. You can’t step over the line.

          Yes, they didn’t specify front of the foot but that’s the intent, at no point have I ever seen anyone teach at any level step ahead of the line as it’s ok as long as your heel is touching it.

          If that was the intent, the rule would be that detailed.

          But thanks for the cynical interpretation of the info and un-necessary insult.

  9. This official crew have crowned off a poor night of officiating with allowing a foul throw…and one that leads to a last minute goal for Seattle. I’m assuming they know you have to be behind the lone when you take a throw in …lol.

      1. You are both morons. The rules state that throws are legal as long as your foot is touching the line.

        …and you guys are “fans” of this sport. Wow. It’s in FIFA’s rules even.

        1. You mean this rule.
          • has part of each foot either on the touch line or on the ground
          “outside” the touch line
          Do you think they meant outside the touch line nut on the field?
          Sure with your body behind the line your foot can touch the line.
          The intent of the rule is not for you to step on the field and have your heel touching the line with the rest of your foot or body over the line.
          You throw the ball from BEHIND the line, and your foot is allowed to touch the line when throwing. You can’t step over the line.
          Yes, they didn’t specify front of the foot but that’s the intent, at no point have I ever seen anyone teach at any level step ahead of the line as it’s ok as long as your heel is touching it.
          If that was the intent, the rule would be that detailed.
          But thanks for the cynical interpretation of the info and un-necessary insult.

          Accidental duplicate post.

  10. My last comment on this is just to say that I am not somebody who spends a lot of time watching MLS but I do feel I have a decent (though unprofessional) perspective on the overall sports landscape here in the US. Considering what MLS is up against, I would think that there would be more appreciation of what it has achieved as opposed to the disappointment over what’s left to be done.

    At any rate I think the general trend is positive and I hope fans of the sport in the US recognize that.

    1. I agree that MLS is heading in the right direction. My qualms are that the league is not moving quickly enough to take the steps it needs to make the league more popular in its own country.

      MLS is up against itself more than other sports or leagues. The league has a lot of power and influence to make the changes it needs to.

      1. Christopher, I have to agree that the league (MLS) is not progressing at the pace it should. I would like to add that instead of comparing MLS to EPL, it might be better to compare it to the J-League. J.L is only a year older. The game play overall all is ahead of MLS. That doesn’t mean every J-League team is better than MLS teams, but I found that the tactics, game flow and play to be more fluid and better.

        MLS was making improvements play, style and tactics until about 2005/2006. Then it seems to stagnate and go backwards.

        IMO, I feel MLS Teams have adopted to much CONCACAF countries leagues style and brought in to many CONCACAF players and their style.

        Those countries leagues (outside of Mexico) are similar to many other countries 3rd division.

        If MLS wants to upgrade their game, IMO they should look towards former eastern European countries (Poland,Croatia, Serbia, etc,)and some select South American Countries/Teams (Argentina, Chile). Sign some of those countries lower 1st 2nd division players. I feel that would improve the game and help the US born players.

        In addition, adopt the baseball model of college drafted players go to the minor leagues and the good minor league players make it to the majors. That means having a top class 2nd and 3rd division.

        I think NASL has the 2nd division down but USL is a problem 3rd division league.

  11. I used to not be bothered by the football lines. My expectations have risen and watching both games was almost unbearable.

    MLS shot themselves in the foot big time. Seattle/Portland was a huge chance to showcase what they want the league to be.

    The first leg was played on football lines. And the second leg is played at the same time as a huge college football games.

    Tonight has kinda made believe all MLS teams should have to have their own stadium

  12. I dont know about the Seattle game but i can tell you that the field in Foxboro was used for a 12pm saturday football game and has another one scheduled 4pm sunday. if they were trying to squeeze a national team game in on Saturday at 8pm the USSF would have had a hard time getting the field relined. (yes i realize that is an absurd scenario). I don’t know Seattle’s stadium situation either but i can also tell all of you that Gillette is the only foreseeable option for the Revolution so the lines are likely to be there. As for it ruining your viewing experience some of you guys really need to work on your focus. it is a line you guys should have been around when they tried to mainstream hockey with a blue tracer on the puck.

  13. Honestly, I think this a lot of lines written over something that really has very few viable alternatives. Would it be ideal that there were no football lines? Of course. The simple fact of the matter is, the Sounders share a stadium with the Seahawks, and the Seahawks play the next day. It would be absurdly difficult to reline the field in that time unless you had crews working overnight. I’m all for soccer-specific stadiums, but the Sounders share their stadium with an NFL team because it’s advantageous for them to do so – they consistently play in front of 40k plus and have begun to draw even larger crowds to high profile games. There is no way that they are going to get their own stadium built in Seattle that can accomodate a crowd like that.

    Where MLS really screwed up here is with scheduling. The right thing to do would have been to work around the NFL schedule – by either playing the first leg in Portland (or is this a home field advantage thing for the higher seeded team?) or scheduling the match on a different night.

  14. The state of the pitches that MLS or my grandson’s select league play on demonstrates that footy is a niche sport in America. It will remain so in my lifetime and probably longer. Football may be played everywhere in the world, but it is not a top shelf sport here. I have long ago reconciled this fact. I no longer position myself as either a spokesman for the beautiful game or an apologist. I have followed footy since 1959. I do not see our game sweeping the fruited plains of America now or any time soon.

    Those who get it matter. Those who don’t, don’t.

  15. At school we used to play indoor five a side on the basketball courts. That was confusing but okay for twelve year olds.

    People spent good money and that’s the best the MLS can do? What a joke. Pretty obvious they still don’t understand the sport or respect the fans.

  16. It was a pretty bad viewing experience. I really don’t need to watch that when I have a DVR full of today’s games from elsewhere that don’t accost my eyes that way. It just looks weird to see players playing in the “out of bounds” area where the American football benches would be located. It also makes the penalty areas look really big for some reason.

    But….the other thing is that it kinda covered up how crappy those two fields are to play on. New England plays like cement. Did you see how the ball bounces? Did you wince when you saw a player go down hard?

  17. Wow Chris you hit a nerve.

    Let’s face it everyone the football lines on the field suck! I will point out that the NFL still has to deal on occasion with playing on baseball infields which also is disturbing.

    To be fair MLS has addressed the problem by saying that new teams have to have SSS. That solves the problem but not on all cases. The real problem in NE is that owner who is one of the most powerful men in American sports refuses to build a SSS stadium but wants to use his own NFL stadium.

    Seattle being the model MLS franchise is a different story. Yet their unique Managment arrangements have them sharing a front office and stadium with the Seahawks. It’s considered to be a great business model.

    So Chris is right but MLS does work on the problem and while it effects things greatly for the worse like last night it is a problem that is working itself out over time. Finally I should point out that in the EPL some matches are effected by turf after being used by the local Rugby team or last year at Wembley by the NFL.

    1. The answer is not just soccer specific stadiums. The answer needs to be MLS and the clubs agreeing not to play MLS games on fields with gridiron lines. For example, FC Dallas has a soccer-specific stadium (Toyota Stadium), but they let a high school football team play on the field, so sometimes the MLS games FC Dallas play have gridiron lines on it, which is a joke.

      1. Still another growing pain. The SSS are hardly able to generate enough revenue from soccer games alone to support themselves. This site has reported on the problems with Toyota Park in Chicago not generating enough revenue. So it’s a bit of a deal with the devil.

        It may may be one of those things we have to live with for a few more years but last night was really bad. As you see from my comment I am more upset by NE where Kraft can build a SSS but refuses to and it hurts local attendance by all accounts but no one in sports will take him on.

      2. If the 2 clubs (seahawks & Sounders) are sharing the venue surely a playoff game should trump a regular season NFL game. The NFL match should have been moved to Monday, just as the Oakland Raider game was when the A’s were in the MLB playoffs

        1. Thats fine in theory, but the NFL will always be the big brother in that arrangement. You know the NFL has the highest average attendance of any league in any sport, and the highest single TV contract despite only having a 16 game season right? I know we are all soccer fans here, but the NFL would trump any league on the planet. Ratings for premier on sky sports run about 3 million viewers. 25 million is viewers is not uncommon for the NFL.

  18. On the lighter side, at least it gave me an opportunity to visually show my wife how big a soccer pitch was in relation to a football field, which is a question she asks a lot. 😛

  19. Regardless, I turned to the games, saw the lines on the field, tried to watch for a few minutes and then turned the channel. Good, bad or indifferent that’s what happened.

    How many casual fans you think did the same?

    1. Exactly. I get that the hardcore fans at the game won’t care, but it looks lousy on TV, and these games are now beamed around the world. It doesn’t help the image of US soccer overseas

  20. This article is a joke, maybe you could propose a reasonable solution instead of just complaining?
    Is it really feasible for all soccer teams to build soccer specific stadiums? Where is that money coming from? As someone else pointed out above, that wouldn’t even solve the problem. The NFL has set their schedule, the MLS has to work around it, and the international break.
    If they really want to fix this problem they need to move the schedule. Which looks like it may be in the cards.

    1. What’s funny is that even the NFL’s Oakland Raiders have to play on a dirt field half of the season. But since the NFL was formed in the 60s there should be no excuse as to why this takes place.

      1. Well the Raiders suck and their games are rarely seen nationally so nobody cares. Seattle is supposed to be one of the MLS marquee teams. Go back 20 years and about half the NFL teams were playing in baseball stadiums, but not anymore. The raiders are the last one, and they’re probably moving back to LA anyway

      2. To be technical about it the NFL was formed in the 1920s and for decades played on baseball fields for the most part. The Chicago Bears for instance started on the 20’s and played until the 70s at Wrigley Field home of the Chicago Cubs. You can find similar stories in NY, Green Bay, Detroit, etc.

        Mega NFL stadiums are of more recent vintage. Chris is right about last nights matches but in comparison MLS is decades ahead of the NFL which still has to deal with baseball infields.

  21. I agree with the author of the article on this one. There’s no way MLS should have playoff games, let alone a marquis game like Seattle vs Portland on a pitch like what they had last night. It’s just not right, and a complete disrespect to fans of the game. It was really hard following the game last night, no fan can deny that fact.

  22. As an MLS fan, this was embarrassing. Maybe one game was excusable, but three of the four games had noticeable gridiron lines on the field. MLS doesn’t project a positive image and should consider being a little more protective of its image–it has taken almost two decades to establish it. I’m curious if the league will release a general statement that addresses this issue because–quite frankly–it made the league appear amateur.

  23. Mr. Harris, in the article you say “Surely by now they could have come up with a solution of how to resolve this eyesore,” and then fail to propose any solutions. Though you have done so now in the comments, I feel that this was a disservice to the reader.

    Furthermore, I agree with sentiments shared above that it is implausible to think every team should have “their own” stadium. For years, MLB & NFL teams shared stadia, and those leagues thrive today (the NFL of course to a greater extent than MLB).

    I would also agree that the Texas teams need to stop allowing the field to be used by American football teams.

    But I also feel that your piece implied that this has been a problem that has plagued MLS day in and day out for the last 17 years. It’s something that – for the most part – has been removed from MLS. Yes, it reared its ugly head Saturday, and yes it was ugly. But if that really stopped anyone from watching the game, then you’re not a soccer fan, you are a fan of European Soccer. And if anyone flipped either of those games off, they missed a couple great playoff games.

    1. Most of our articles are longer in length than the majority of articles found on other soccer websites. This particular one above was one where the pictures spoke for themselves, and were taken during the matches before any professional images were published. You’re posting this comment three days after the article was published.

    1. I see. So a league that has one of the highest average attendances in the world; a league that has built or renovated 14 soccer stadiums since 1999; a league in which some of the world’s best players have expressed a desire to play in one day; a league in which some of the most influential people in the sport have praised is on the rise; a league with all of these things is a joke? Do some research before saying something completely untrue.

      1. Jeff, you have your facts wrong. MLS doesn’t have one of the highest average attendances in the world. It has one of the highest average attendances among sports in the US only.

        There are many soccer leagues that have higher average attendances than MLS.

          1. Correct, which is very good news. But it’s not, as one commenter pointed out “one of the highest average attendances in the world.”

          2. If that comment would have read “the championship has one of the highest attendances in the world” not a single word of question would have been raised. Even though the MLS attendance is higher, the automatic US soccer self-loathing kicks in.

        1. Please tell me how my statement was wrong. It is a fact that there are only a handful of leagues in the world that have a higher average attendance than MLS. Look it up.

  24. MLS will remain a niche league as long as NFL continues to control it. The whole thesis behind SSS was to control the dates and no more lines on the field but as we saw in Houston all of what MLS has said is BS.

    Everyone keeps telling me MLS is growing but nothing has changed in 18yrs.

  25. Yeah, they’re not being taken seriously. Averaging 18k a game, growing to 24 franchises, competing internationally, all that goes out the window because a British guy gets his knickers in a twist about the unavoidable conflict with the NFL.

    And these are the people who insist MLS has to play from August to May, so we can have more of these conflicts.

    And “Total Relegation” is a total idiot. To say “nothing has changed in 18yrs” shows what a complete imbecile he is.

  26. Maybe MLS was just trying to attract viewers by confusing them into thinking it was an NFL game…

    You see these turf fields all around the country at high schools and colleges. I don’t think the typical American fan cared that much.

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