Turf Vs. Grass for Soccer

Turf soccer fields are gaining popularity in cities across the country, but many experienced players and coaches oppose the trend. Those in favor of turf soccer fields praise it for increasing opportunities for indoor play, and others in opposition cite increased injuries. 

The debate between turf and grass for soccer fields goes back and forth. Here, we dive deeper into the advantages and disadvantages of each, so players and coaches at all levels can decide what’s best for them.

Are Turf and Artificial Grass the Same?

Shopping for a pair of soccer cleats in 2022 means seeing a variety of shoes made for different playing surfaces. Buyers will find brands like Adidas and Nike offering different soleplates for turf and artificial grass. 

The concept that shoes for playing soccer on turf and artificial grass are different proves that the two surfaces are not the same. 

What Is Artificial Grass?

Artificial grass (AG) is a form of synthetic grass that replicates natural grass as closely as possible. It’s difficult to tell the difference between AG and natural grass from a distance. Professional club stadiums and practice fields are the most common places to find artificial grass. 

What Is Turf?

Artificial turf is older and cheaper. It resembles carpet more than natural grass, and it’s commonly used on golf putting greens, school playgrounds, and more. Turf has minimal cushion and is shallow, leading to more player injuries than artificial or natural grass. Turf also causes the soccer ball to bounce unnaturally high. 

Pros and Cons of Turf and Artificial Grass for Soccer

Many soccer players will tell you that playing on an artificial surface is more dangerous. However, players and coaches agree that turf and artificial grass offer advantages too. The following are the numerous pros and cons of playing on turf or AG.

Pros of Turf and Artificial Grass

  • Poor weather conditions don’t drastically affect the playing surface on artificial grass or turf. These materials maintain their consistency when a natural field may become muddy or even unusable. 
  • Poor field conditions can result in postponements or cancellations, and this doesn’t happen with AG or turf.
  • Turf doesn’t require the year-round maintenance a natural field needs. It’s cheaper and easier to maintain, which many athletic organizations prefer. 
  • Painting and erasing lines is much easier with turf and AG, making these fields more versatile for multiple sports.
  • Many indoor fields are turf or artificial grass, allowing players to play and train year-round. 

Cons of Turf and Artificial Grass

  • Studies show that individuals who play on turf or artificial grass have a higher chance of lower-body injury. These injuries occur because turf offers less cushion and is more abrasive. Scrapes and “rug burns” are much more common on turf.
  • Turf can overheat in high temperatures and direct sunlight.
  • The ball moves much faster on turf, causing players to lose control more often. The ball also bounces unnaturally high, which can be difficult for players accustomed to natural grass.
  • Artificial grass and turf are modern advancements that many players and coaches view negatively for taking away many strategies of the game. Players can’t slide without dealing with painful abrasions, and the ball can’t be spun or kicked the same way as on grass.

Pros and Cons of Grass for Soccer

Natural grass fields win the hearts of most soccer players and coaches. The roots of the game and its playing strategies are on natural grass fields. These are some of the most common pros and cons associated with natural grass:

Pros of Natural Grass for Soccer

  • Players and coaches view natural grass as the classic soccer field. Teams can play with traditional strategies and at an ideal pace.
  • Players have a reduced chance of injury on natural grass. 
  • Natural grass controls the speed of the ball, allowing for superior accuracy, ball control, shooting, and passing. The ball does not bounce uncontrollably on grass.
  • Cleats penetrate better on grass. Players can make faster and more precise directional changes and cuts. 
  • Players can slide with a smaller chance of injuries or abrasions. 

Cons of Natural Grass for Soccer

  • Grass fields offer reduced playing time. They’re often outdoors, which means games may be canceled or postponed due to extreme cold, rain, or heat. 
  • The upkeep required for a quality grass field requires effort, time, and money. 
  • The lines on a natural grass field are semi-permanent and cannot be immediately erased or adjusted for other sports. 

Will a Soccer Ball Move Faster on Real Grass or Plastic Grass?

A major complaint about artificial grass or turf is that the ball moves drastically faster than it does on natural grass. That can hinder a team’s strategy because there’s less time to think before making a play. Artificial turf also causes the ball to bounce with unnatural force, making it more difficult to control.

Why Do Soccer Players Hate Turf and Prefer Grass?

Most soccer players and coaches have valid reasons for choosing natural grass over artificial grass or turf. Most of the reasons relate to the increased chance of injury on artificial surfaces. Many studies performed on the National Football League (NFL) show the correlation between increased injuries and turf use. These findings relate to the sport of soccer too.
Players also feel they don’t perform the same on artificial fields as on grass fields. It is difficult for a team to perform their best when the ball moves faster and bounces higher than on a classic natural grass field. Players and games are messier with the turf’s faster pace.


How Does the Playing Surface Impact Safety and Performance?

The most common complaint about artificial fields is that they cause more injuries. Many studies focus on how much the chance of injury increases on turf. 

The American Journal of Sports Medicine performed a study in 2019 on the National Football League (NFL) and playing on turf fields. The results reflected a 27 percent increase in no-contact lower-body injuries. Soccer players predict a similar increase in injuries exists for them too. 

Turf and artificial grass fields increase stress on the ACL and other joints by 45 percent. These fields are dangerous for all parts of the lower limbs because feet do not rotate the same on turf as they do on natural grass. Other factors, like the unnatural bounce of the ball, excessive heat radiating from the turf, and less natural cushioning can also lead to painful or career-ending injuries. 

Experts emphasize the importance of wearing the correct cleats for the field surface. A cleat that is too short or too profound on the wrong surface can cause the foot to stay in a certain position when making a quick change of direction. This can result in serious injury. 

In Conclusion: Grass or Turf? 

The battle is an uphill one for soccer coaches and players who prefer natural grass fields. Turf and AG fields are more common than ever because keeping a natural grass field in top condition is costly and time-consuming.