Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber has explained that the six clubs that play on synthetic grass – more commonly known as ‘turf’ – may have to change their current surface to natural grass in order to have Lionel Messi feature at their stadiums.
In European soccer, synthetic grass is often blamed for rises in injuries and changes in teams styles due to its different texture and composition.
Messi, one of Inter Miami’s newest recruits, has only played on natural grass throughout his career but may face some challenges if he is to play at any of the six stadiums that currently house artificial turf.
Those six clubs are: Charlotte FC (Bank of America Stadium), Atlanta United (Mercedes-Benz Stadium), New England Revolution (Gillette Stadium), Seattle Sounders (Lumen Field), Portland Timbers (Providence Park), and Vancouver Whitecaps (BC Place).
Speaking to the press, MLS commissioner Garber said: “MLS promotes a lot of international games, and we have been able to bring natural grass into those stadiums [for those games], but we’ve never done that for a regular-season game.
“My expectations are that that’s what they will do, but there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to figure all of that out.”
While Garber says he expects all six of those clubs to install natural grass, one of those clubs has made it clear that they will not: Atlanta United. The Five Stripes’ CEO and president Garth Lagerway, who joined the club in November of 2022, knows that Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino is no stranger to Mercedes-Benz Stadium as he was the head coach of Atlanta from 2017-2018.
“You can ask [Martino], he is familiar with the quality of our turf,” Lagerway said. “He can explain to his players how good and safe it is to play at our stadium.”
Martino guided Atlanta to a 2018 MLS Cup win with the likes of Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez, and he’s now reunited with the latter at Inter Miami. Atlanta United and Inter Miami will meet in MLS action on September 16 at the Five Stripes’ home field, and it will be interesting to see if Messi does feature in the game.
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