American soccer fans, we need to talk. We have issues … with our stadiums. We need to sort this out.
At very least, we need to our feelings on the table: American soccer must find some peace in its conflicted relationship with the stadiums where our matches play out. It’s working for now … but only “kind of” working. Eventually, we just have to find a more stable place.
At some point, we have to decide: Are we a country that truly likes soccer and wants to function as one (a nation that loves and values the game, that is). Or are we a country that wants to make money off soccer, and doesn’t really give a crap about the game itself?
That’s where we are, and this is the best time to discuss it, during a summer of big and lucrative matches. They are “big” — at least, in the sense that hordes of fans here will happily rush forth, cash in hand, to watch the world’s iconic clubs in varying degrees of interest against other clubs with varying degrees of interest. That’s the International Champions Cup, where Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona and other globally recognized heavies are once again drawing swell crowds.
And we have the CONCACAF Gold Cup, an actual international competition, even if it’s not all that competitive. Not yet, anyway, for the United States. But never mind that, the crowds have been solid.
Here’s the problem: Each time a promoter or tournament organizer sketches out plans for one of these matches, they face an all-to-familiar American soccer dilemma: Go with a smaller “proper” soccer stadium and its more suitable field, or; follow the money, utilizing a larger American football facility, where history has taught us the playing surface will probably fall somewhere between “garden variety poor” and “dangerously awful.”
Mostly, they go with the money –and that leaves us rehashing the same old tired conversation about how these champagne clubs and these matches deserve better.
Hence, American soccer’s complicated stadium issue.
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal certainly had his say last week, lamenting the poor condition of CenturyLink Field. He even made a funny – Who knew the hard ass Dutchman had it in him? – about how other places had facilities for football, not for One Direction concerts, referencing the musical act that complicated field conditions in Seattle that were always going to be imperfect. At CenturyLink, you get artificial turf (which disgusts most players) or grass laid over it (which rarely works).