By George Gorecki
Soccer teams who play at home have historically had the advantage over their opponents. Familiarity with the field, enthusiastic fan support and traveling fatigue of the visiting side are obvious built-in advantages for the home team. The field itself can provide an edge to the home team because of its dimensions or the nature of the grass. But synthetic fields have now entered the soccer world and three of the four MLS teams who play their home matches on turf appear to have a bigger advantage than teams who play at home on grass.
Back in the days of the NASL, soccer teams didn’t own their own stadiums, so they had to play their games on whatever surface was in place at the stadium that they were renting. These were stadiums that were normally used for baseball or American football. It was not uncommon to see soccer matches played within the narrow confines of a football field, or overlaying part of dirt portion of a baseball infield. Astroturf was the synthetic surface of choice in the 1970s and was found in many professional stadiums across the United States. Even though the fake grass was totally unsuited for playing soccer, players simply had to adjust their style of play to account for the hard, bouncy surface. With so many games being played on Astroturf, the players eventually grew accustomed to it, even if they didn’t exactly find playing soccer on Astroturf very enjoyable.
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