Dr. James Watson

Soccer is the most popular sport worldwide and participation is increasing annually.  The game is especially popular with youngsters of both sexes and all sizes.  Both sand lot  and organized leagues encourage play starting at 5-6 years of age the the college years.  Professional soccer is avidly supported and followed by millions of devoted fans in every country, except the United States. World Cup 94 may have changed this attitude and created many new fans.And, the newly formed U.S. professional league undoubtedly will generate much interest if it is successfully launched.

    World Cup soccer teams are composed of professional players. They are highly skilled , have excellent coordination and play as a team, not as individuals.

     World Cup soccer is viewed by more people, in person, on television and in video tapes than any other sporting event.  Estimates for World Cup 94 were in the excess of a billion viewers worldwide.  Based on ticket sales, some 4 + million attended the games.

     There can little question that the game will continue to grow in popularity. And, that the demand for soccer fields, whether sponsored by neighborhoods, parks, schools or private investment must meet stringent requirements for play. They must be established to grass, be smooth, level, safe and, above all, consistent in playing characteristics.   To meet these standards they must be properly constructed and maintained.

   World Cup games have a rather rigid table of organization.  Each venue had a representative architect and construction contractor representative. And, each VED (Venue Executive Directive Director) had several assistants.  And, there were thousands of volunteers serving in all capacities.

   Fields for World Cup play, as with all soccer fields, do not have exact dimensions.                  However, they must fall within certain widths and and lengths:

                             Width :   70 to 80 yards (68 to 75 meters)

                              Length: 110 to 120 yards (105 to 110 meters)

  World Cup USA fields were:

                               75 x 115 yards (71.5 x 107.5 meters)

 In addition to the playing area, the field must be wide enough and long enough to accomadate players' benches, coaches' box, sign boards (advertisements for major sponsors), photographers, television cameras; and preferably a 4.5 yard (4 meter) security or safety zone. These and other requirements, of which there are many, are detailed in the FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) publication entitled, "Technical Recommendations and Requirements for the Construction of New Stadia."

The Venues

      The 1994 World Cup games were contested in the USA on nine venues. The venues were located in widely varying climatic regions.  Five were established to Bermudagrass (Cynodon Dactylon - C transvaalensis hybrids) and  four fields to cultivars of Kentucky bluegrass (Poa prantensis) and ryegrass (Lollium perenne) mixtures.

       For the games all fields played exceptionally well.  They were level, smooth and consistent.  A device called the Field Performance Indicator (FPI) developed at the University of California /Riverside by Stephen Cockerham and John Keisling was used to measure ball bounce, roll distance and deflection. Steve Cockerham will discuss the device and how it was used to ensure consistency of playing characteristics.  At the start of play all fields rolled  to within one (1) meter of each other.  The Rose Bowl was used as the standard. The other eight fields were then adjusted by manipulating height-of-cut, watering, rolling, mowing frequency and fertilization.  FIFA did not have standards for field condition or maintenance.  By use of the FPI we were able to establish USA standards which proved to be highly successful. Playing conditions were lauded by FIFA, players, coaches and spectators.

   The Bermudagrass fields were moved at 1/2 to 5/8 inch (12-15mm); bluegrass fields at 3/4 to 1 inch (18-25mm).  If the field played too slowly, height-of-cut was lowered 1/8 to 1/4 inch (2-3mm) one or two days prior to a game, then raised until two days before the next game.


Cultural Practices   

    Cultural factors were manipulated and modified to alter playing speed.

     See Table 2. (below)


TABLE  2.    EFFECTS OF CULTURAL                                 PRACTICES ON SPEED OF PLAY 

Cultural Practices     INCREASE SPEED        DECREASE SPEED     



     Double Cut


 Lower height


 Yes, 1-2 days before  game

 No effect


   Raise height    

    Skip day


    No effect

Fertilization -




N, 1-2 days before game 

Watering  Withhold Yes, before game
Pest Control:




  Yes treat



 Yes treat

 if not unsightly, leave


 Top Dressing  Lightly 4-5 days < game  Heavy
 Thatch  Remove  Leave
 Verticutting  Lightly  No
 Appearance - Iron  No effect  No effect


    To ensure field is aesthetically appealing as well as exhibiting  good playing characteristics it must be monitored carefully each day, sometimes 2 to 3 times daily depending on weather and condition of grass.  Optimally, each crew member should be responsible for detecting and correcting any flaw or blemish on the field.

    Grooming on a daily basis is necessary for aesthetic appeal and for the health and vigor of the turf.  If grass catchers are not available for mowers  then the field must be swept each time it is mowed.  After a game it is critical that the field either be mowed with catchers or swept. All plant parts torn out by play and all debris must be collected and removed.  All cleat marks, divots and skid marks must be repaired.  Some of this repair and policing also may be done at half time.  Large divots may be cut out and replaced with new, thick cut (50mm) sod; all divots and skid marks may be seeded with pre-germinated seed. A mixture of moist sand dyed green and seed may be kept on hand to seed bare areas.  Small divots may be repaired using a golf divot repair tool.

    Maintenance also involved careful monitoring on a continual basis.  One must anticipate problems before they happen and have the materials and equipment on hand for immediate action.  

Painting,though not part of turf maintenance, is a major factor in overall play and aesthetics.  Lines must be sharp and well delineated.  They must be the exact width of the goal posts-4 1/4 inches (125mm) normally.  However, new goals were used for World Cup 94 which were 4 3/4 inches (175mm) in diameter, consequently the lines were increased by 1/2 inch (12.5mm).  FIFA personnel often measure the lines to make certain they are the exact dimension!

 Special maintenance problems,

1.   Non-game activities

      Unique maintenance problems result from the pre-game ceremonies held at each venue             and before the final game.  Dancers, fireworks, bands and other entertainment follow                repetitive patterns which cause undue wear and severe damage to the grass in a very short       period of time.  Most of this type of activity demands 4-8 hours of practice on the field 3-4       consecutive days. The damage from all this activity is greater than that which occurs during       the game.   Every effort should be made to convince authorities to reduce the number and         length of practice sessions.

2.   Traditional events like graduation ceremonies at one of the venues scheduled well in                 advance; and excluded from World Cup contracts, demanded special care and attention.         For example, contracting 10-12 months in advance for replacement sod. The sod to be of       the same species and maintained in the same manner as the field.

3.   Rock music concerts scheduled within two months of the opening game severely damages       the field.  The stages cause a special problem because of  their weight.  Other areas may           be partially protected by use of geotextile fabrics and terra-plas.

4.   removal of impediments (long jump pit, hammer throw pavillion and pole vault area to               permit widening of the field.


Each of the nine venues required varying degrees of modification and re-construction.  The       fields were configured for American football and were unsuitable for World Cup soccer.           Several of the fields had crowns of 18 to 24 inches (45 to 60 cm).  As indicated, FIFA           prefers a flat level field, but for World Cup 94 did agree to permit an 8 inch (200mm)               crown.

The Venues

Dallas, Texas Cotton Bowl.  Rebuilt in 1993. Required rolling and topdressing to level.

Chicago, Illinois, Soldier Field.   Four inches of soil removed.  Field regraded and sodded in April-May '94.

Washington, D.C. RFK Stadium.   Regraded and sodded in late April '94.

Boston, Massachusetts, Foxboro Stadium.  Regraded and resodded in April. Damage from a rock music concert was repaired in early June.

San Francisco, California, Stanford University Stadium.   During April-May regraded and extended field over 4 lanes of asphalt running track and area where long jump, pole vault, and hammer throw pavillion had been removed. Graduation ceremony held 12 days before first game required large stage which extended 30 yards (26 meters) across center of field and over half the width of the field.  Two thousand chairs aligned around the stage further disrupted maintenance schedules and caused limited damage to the turf.  The area covered by the stage was resodded 8 days before the first game.   Football (American) yard markers had been overseeded with ryegrass only and were yellowish  in color as opposed to the dark green of the Bluegrass/ryegrass mixture.  These were partially obscured by the mowing pattern.

New Jersey, Giants Stadium.    A grass field was constructed over the carpet (artificial grass) that normally covered the field.  The Turf field was removed within 3 days after semi-final (eastern regional) game.

Orlando, Florida, Citrus Bowl Stadium.   Old field was removed, new seedbed brought in, graded, firmed and sodded in late April.  Field in excellent condition for games.

Los Angeles California, Rose Bowl Stadium.   Field regraded to reduce crown.  Seedbed material brought in to raise sideline and out of bounds areas. Graded, firmed and resodded.   First game was June 15.  Completed May 11.

Detroit, Michigan, Silverdome Stadium.    A domed stadium with an artificial grass surface.  Truly a unique environment for World Cup soccer.  Dr. Trey Rodgers will review this field with you.   As noted of the eight outdoor fields, three were rebuilt and 5 others modified extensively.


     I shall use the meadowlands field as an example of the manner in which a World Cup soccer field should be planned, designed and constructed.  Because of the situation with the existing carpet (artificial turf) and the temporary nature of the grass field as well as the fact that the games were to be played in the summer months of June and July, we were able to construct the field in an ideal manner for the games.  Perhaps, not altogether in the manner in which a permanent field at that location would have been constructed, but ideal for this temporary situation.  I shall try and point out the major differences during the discussion. Basically, the differences are in the texture of the soil, the type of grass and in the drainage system.

      Planning and design.

          Planning included being made aware of all events (concerts, shows, rodeos, motor cross, preliminary exhibition games, and similar events) scheduled in the three months prior to the date the field was turned over to World Cup control.  In this respect, World Cup took over the fields on 20 May 1994. Also, we wanted to know all types of entertainment during the World Cup games - June 17 to July 17; and immediately following, the games.  With the event schedule in hand, flow charts for each step showing the time (days) required for completion and the date anticipated for completing each step were plotted on a calendar.

Design and Specifications.

         This phase consisted of preparing blueprints and specifications that depicted details of each phase of construction.  For example, some of the items included were:        

Type, thickness and placement of filters to be used for protection of the carpet over which the playing field was to be built.  Contractor was required to be bonded against filtration of
soil particles, chemicals or fertilizers that might damage the underlying carpet in any
manner.  On a permanent field, subgrade detail and drainage system and it's routing
would be described at this stage.  Elevations (grades) of sub-grades and of finished
field.  Cross section detail where required. Depth of drainage layers including drainage
tubes (none were used at Meadlowlands) trenches, pea gravel and grade. Depth
of seedbed, grade-rough and final.  Seedbed preparation-reserve and starter fertilizers,
settling procedures and grading. 

Irrigation system design including pipe sizes, sprinkler heads, water taps including size of inlet pipes, gallons (liters) per minute available, pressure at inlet, type of back flow prevention valve and it's location. Location of goal sleeves and posts, players' benches, coaches' boxes, space for cameras and photographers, and security. Electrical outlets.

          In short, design blueprints, specifications included the many and varied details that such documents that such documents require for bidding and installation.  In addition, specifications detailed the kinds and and amounts of materials including soil texture, depth and methods for grading, seedbed preparation and qualifications of the sod, how it was to be cut (4foot widths) trucked, delivered and installed.

          Specifications also included type,grade, analysis and amounts of fertilizers to be incorporated at various stages of seedbed preparation and maintenance for a given period of time.  I the case of the Meadowlands, the contractor was employed to maintain the field throughout the scheduled games.  And, to dismantle and remove field within three days of the last game-Eastern semi-final game.

           Slides will be used to illustrate various phases of construction, sodding and maintenance.

                                                SPECIAL SITUATIONS

      There are a number of special and unexpected situations that occur and develop before and during the games.  And, often between games, emergency situations arise that must be handled quickly and expeditiously.  These, perhaps, should be discussed by the panel that Dr. Maki will chair.  Suffice it to say that responses from all parties must be decisive and immediately implemented.  For many, there is no room for delay or time to discuss.  Among those that involve planning a year or so in advance are:

1.       Contracting for sod at least one year in advance.  This included sod for                                   modification, rebuilding and emergency replacement.

2.       Determination of Scheduled events.

3.       Evaluation of facility personnel and their capabilities and training.

4.       Determination of availability of facility crew for key  maintenance                                             programs during period of time games are played.

5.       Irrigation system performance. The type and it's capability.

6.       Number and location of quick coupling valves.

7.       Evaluation of the type, number and condition of facility equipment.

8.       Availability of  "back up" and rental equipment and the time required to get it to the                   stadium.

9.        List of emergency supplies and materials that will be needed and that the                                  facility must provide.  Including fertilizers, pesticides,iron,other trace elements,                          top seeding material, seed, paint, and dye.

10.     Availability of rain tarps which may also subsitute for warming soil.  These are only
          a few of the details that must be planned and organized well in advance of the year
          the games are scheduled.  Because the games are played in June and July, and,
          because most stadia host varius events including games and concerts to support the
          facility financially, it is likely to be spring before final preparation can begin.  This
          was the case for World Cup 1994. Other than planning, acutual work did not begin
          until April on any of the fields.  Thus planning is absolutely essential.

                           Emergency Situations.

           Anything that may damage the turfgrass usually happens either just before or after a                  game. Some of the things I remember:

1.        Forty horses prancing around the Foxboro field just inside the field                                          boundaries.  Most of the game had been played in light rainfall and the field was wet.

2.        Syringing hot spots just before a game. And, between rehearsals.

3.        Replacement of severely damaged areas in the goal zones a few days before the                     games.Damaged caused earlier by rock concerts.

4.        Graduation ceremonies eight days before opening game.  Some 10,000 square yards              of sod replaced.

5.        2000 dancers and entertainers moving in repetitive patterns in practice and just before              game openings.   


Prepared for:  Japanese Soccer Symposium                                                                   JAPSOC/13 internet magazine would like to sincerely thank Dr. J.R. Watson for granting permission to reproduce the text of his presentation given at the JAPSOC/13

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