The field is the most fundamental part of the game – a place to play – and yet it has not been adjusted for almost 100 years.
Last week I talked about making the field smaller, this week we look at one of the most notorious small fieldes in the world, Yankee Stadium. New York City FC has made its home in Yankee Stadium of the New York Yankees in Major League Baseball, on a field that is listed at the MLS minimum of 70 yards wide and 110 yards long. There is one problem, by all accounts -besides NYC FC themselves of course- the field is much smaller than that; Sporting KC’s manager walked it off in 2015 and was quoted as saying it was about 68 yards wide and 106 yards long. It does not sound like a lot but that is about 500 square yards less than the minimum. So, the field is smaller, what effect did it have?
I thought that the small field would result in an extreme outcome but seemingly, it did not. According to stats from WhoScored.com their home games were well within the range of normal goals scored from 2015-2019 (they did not play Yankee Stadium in 2020).
So, what did we find from this inquiry? With no clear data to show its benefits I think we require some more experimentation. Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, and that leads us to hesitate to change and understandably so but as players evolve the game must evolve as well. We see attempts at progress with the implementation of VAR, goal line technology, more substitutes, evolving the ball, but if we do not look at the more fundamental parts of the game it risks the growth of the game coming to a halt.
Next time we will look at how soccer can experiment and what are the appropriate venues. Youth soccer seems to be the current favorite for a place to test new laws and the professional’s game is where we test new technology, but maybe there is a better way.