The USL season started this past weekend, with games in the USL Championship and League One joining the professional soccer landscape in the United States. However, the return of these leagues and the MLS clubs that play at NFL stadiums brought back the all-too-familiar reminder that too many soccer games are ruined by football lines. The distracting nature is not just a bad look for the sport. It becomes a major hindrance to watch these leagues because of how they play out on TV.

Soccer has simple lines painted on the field: Two end lines, two touchlines, a halfway line with a circle, and a penalty box. By comparison, American football has cross-field lines every five yards, hash marks, center-field logos, and endzone usually painted with large words and images emblazoned across.

It is a stark contrast between American football and soccer.

Yet, League One sides in the United States often play on these fields at venues they share with American football teams. For example, the Greenville Triumph defeated Spokane Velocity 3-1 at Paladin Stadium. Paladin Stadium traditionally hosts the Furman Paladins, an NCAA Division I FCS Football team that uses turf likely because it is cheaper. The challenge that the Greenville Triumph faces is common among USL League One teams. Turf is cheaper, and the traditional venue hosts will have one turf field for all the tenants. That is why Greenville’s win over Spokane Velocity had the issue of American football lines across the pitch.

Clubs and competitions argue that sharing fields with American football teams at the college level saves money. That is true; the cost of facilities is a major battle USL faces. That is why so many teams, including the top ones, often play at baseball or college football stadiums.

American football lines on soccer fields hurt the quality of the product

However, saving money on fields has repercussions on the experience for fans. Often, these lines are so distracting that it is hard for fans to understand what is happening truly. For instance, soccer fields are wider than American football fields. Therefore, the sidelines for soccer extend into the out-of-bounds. As American football is the primary sport for most stadiums, those out-of-bounds lines are broad and white. In other words, they pop out on the screen. By comparison, the soccer field lines are thin and yellow, taking a back seat to American football.

It makes the product of the USL Championship and League One drop. The play on the field is of high quality, and the games in both divisions show that the players have the ability. Yet, having them play on fields with American football lines gives the sport a varsity field. High school soccer does this, and it should not be common for a professional league in the United States.

The difference between those without American football

Not every team uses American football venues to play games in the USL Championship or League One. Detroit City FC, for example, has one of the best atmospheres in American soccer. Despite having a smaller capacity than many American football venues, Keyworth Stadium appears soccer-specific when fans watch on TV. That may add to the look and professional feel Detroit City provides.