The first game of the Copa America featured familiar sights as Argentina defeated Canada. Lionel Messi created several chances for the defending champions and added an assist on Lautaro Martinez’s goal in the 88th minute. Even though he failed to score on his clear opportunities at goal, Argentina looked strong. It was not a poor performance from Canada, either, in Jesse Marsch’s competitive debut. The one poor display, according to players from both sides, was the pitch.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium brought in a grass field to replace the artificial turf it traditionally uses. Both the Atlanta Falcons of the NFL and MLS’s Atlanta United play on turf, but CONMEBOL requires real grass. However, moving in a temporary pitch was not done up to standards, at least for Argentina.

“The state of the pitch was a disaster,” Emiliano Martinez, the goalkeeper for Argentina, said. “Very bumpy. We must improve in this aspect, otherwise, Copa América will always appear at a lower level than the European Championship.”

With the two tournaments happening at the same time, fans have constant exposure, and comparisons are being drawn. Euro 2024 has been a smash hit with exciting contests throughout the tournament. The Copa America can have the same flair, but routine infrastructural issues cannot happen, as Martinez says.

Argentina coach says Copa America pitch impacted the game

Lionel Scaloni, the head coach of Argentina, also lamented the field. He said had Argentina lost, it would have been too easy of an excuse to point to.

“Better that we won, or else it would have appeared as an excuse, but they knew seven months ago that we’d play here and they changed the field two days ago,” Scaloni said. “It’s not an excuse, but this isn’t a good field. Sincerely, the field is not apt for these players.”

Scaloni pointed to the speed at which Argentina played passes and that it allowed Canada to keep up. Yet, Canada was also upset with the quality of the pitch at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the Copa America opener. Kamal Miller, a defender for the Canadian national team, said the pitch felt hollow. To him, it felt more like playing on a stage than it did a true field.

Some stadiums in the United States have full pitches that allow the grass cohesively. For example, State Farm Stadium in Glendale, AZ, and Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, NV, wheel the entire pitch outside to get sunlight in an otherwise indoor venue. Mercedes-Benz Stadium patched together panels of grass on top of the artificial turf that MLS and the NFL use.

Atlanta to host one more game that features USMNT

The widespread nature of the 2024 Copa America means stadiums will only host two to three games. For Mercedes-Benz Stadium, there will be one more game. Yet, that includes a major game involving the United States Men’s National Team against Uruguay, one of the contenders for the tournament. Therefore, the pitch will be a talking point in what could be a significant game for the USMNT in the final group-stage contest.


Copa América 2024

Here are some resources to get you ready for Copa!
Copa América Schedule: Full schedule of all games for the 2024 tournament
How to watch: Information on where to find the games on TV and streaming
How to Stream Learn how you can stream Copa games live in 2024
Key Dates: Learn All the important dates to mark on your calendar
Copa (United States of) América: South America's biggest tournament comes back to the USA
2024 Soccer Calendar: Get the lowdown on what will be a busy year in soccer