The Loons temporary home at TCF Bank Stadium - Photo courtesy Jeremy Olson.

The Angle

Home-Field Advantage? Adapting to TCF Bank Stadium’s Pitch

by on 10 March 2017

Sunday marks the first MLS home match for Minnesota United FC and the second time soccer has been played at TCF Bank Stadium. The University of Minnesota football stadium clearly isn’t built for soccer, but the newly-installed turf (sans yard lines) will serve the Loons well as a temporary home. But how will the pitch size affect the team?

FIFA’s rules state that a team’s pitch must be at least 100 meters (109 yards) long by 64 meters (71 yards) wide and can be as big as 110 meters (120 yards) long by 75 meters (82 yards) wide. Pitch sizes across soccer leagues worldwide land somewhere within this range.

TCF Bank Stadium’s pitch will be 120 yards long by 70 yards wide, which matches the narrowest and longest pitch sizes in MLS. For comparison, the pitch at the National Sports Center in Blaine, the Loons’ former home, is 118 yards long by 75 yards wide. The to-scale chart below compares TCF Bank Stadium with some other pitches from around MLS. It’s especially worth noting that fellow expansion club Atlanta United’s temporary home at Bobby Dodd Stadium ties NYCFC for both the narrowest and shortest field in MLS.

A to-scale comparison of TCF Bank Stadium with other notable MLS pitch sizes. Graphic courtesy Kurt Beckman

While clearly smaller than many, Minnesota will have more room to work with than several other MLS clubs. In length, TCF Bank Stadium’s pitch matches Montreal, which boasts the largest pitch in MLS at Saputo Stadium (120 yards by 77 yards). On the other hand, Houston’s pitch at BBVA Compass Stadium is only marginally wider and shorter than Minnesota’s.

When asked about the home pitch size, Minnesota United head coach Adrian Heath didn’t sound concerned.

“We played twice at Yankee Stadium when I was with Orlando…and is it a bit smaller? It is, but it’s the same for both teams,” Heath said. “It’s maybe a bit different for you, but it is what it is. That’s where we’re playing. We’ve got to get on with it. I don’t care if it’s 65 (yards) wide, it’s the same for both teams.”

Heath’s Lions played at the Citrus Bowl during his tenure, which was 114 yards long by 74 yards wide. The added width allowed wingers in his trademark 4-2-3-1 to play wide and stretch the opposition, which is much more difficult to achieve on a tighter pitch.

“If you like to play wingers who like to play wide, obviously the narrower the field the easier it is to defend,” Heath said. “That might be a little issue. The important thing is to pull back the negativity about what the weather might be or what the pitch is.”

When Loons midfielder Rasmus Schüller played at BK Häcken last season, he played at a stadium with a similar pitch size (~115 yards by 71 yards) to what Minnesota will have at TCF Bank Stadium.

“Of course the smaller the pitch, the less time you get with the ball. It’s always going to have a small influence,” Schüller said. “If it’s a smaller pitch, the gaps are smaller, but we want our guys in the same space. You just have to adapt to that small difference, but it’s still football.”

The narrow playing field will force the Loons to play long instead of wide, relying on the speedy play of the attack to race up and down the elongated pitch. The tightened spaces means passes need to be that much more precise, leaving very little room for error.

Regardless, Schüller knows the team is up to the task.

“Whether it’s a bigger pitch or a smaller pitch, we want to play a certain way and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Jeff Rueter contributed to this report

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