Argentina's complaints about Atlanta pitch bring serious issue to surface

argentina's complaints about atlanta pitch bring serious issue to surface

Argentina's Lionel Messi.

The issue of field conditions bubbled to the surface at one of the most prestigious soccer events in the Western Hemisphere on Thursday night.

After their 2-0 win over Canada in the opening match of Copa America in Atlanta, Argentina players and coaches complained about the pitch.

"A disaster," Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez called the sloppy grass turf at Mercedes Benz Stadium, per ESPN.com. "Very bumpy. We must improve in this aspect; otherwise, Copa America will always appear at a lower level than the European Championship."

"Two days ago it was fake, and then [organizers] parched panels of grass together," Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni said.

Pitch-level photos posted by the stadium's official X account displayed the haphazard effort to lay soccer-worthy grass on top of the artificial turf, the primary surface at Mercedes Benz Stadium.

Greater investment in proper, rooted grass installation, like at State Farm Stadium in Arizona, must be a priority for organizers of major U.S. sports events or else they risk increased player injuries on the world stage.

Former Major League Soccer player Mike Grella emphasized this point Friday on "The Pat McAfee Show."

Mercedes Benz and MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., will host FIFA World Cup games in 2026. Thursday night's test run in Atlanta, despite being played on grass, a surface most athletes endorse, earned failing marks as a solution to the artificial turf problem.

Artificial turf — the primary surface at MetLife Stadium, too — isn't the answer either.

Players have long voiced their frustrations with artificial turf, which they believe causes injuries.

A 2023 NFL player survey conducted by The Athletic found MetLife Stadium to be the worst to play in. New York Jets wideout Garrett Wilson said last October the playing surface in his home stadium is "garbage."

Venues that don't pivot to properly installed natural grass soon may cost their cities business too.

Commanders Field, home of the Washington Commanders, is a cautionary tale. It finished second behind MetLife in The Athletic's player survey for worst stadium surface to play on.

Several high-profile injuries have occurred on that stadium's grass playing surface which was noted for to its poor quality and inadequate maintenance. Because of those issues, as well as glaring cosmetic problems with the stadium itself, 2026 World Cup organizers passed over Washington as a venue.

So be warned, sports organizers. Ankles, knees — and dollars — could be at stake.

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