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Are the Copa America's pitches too small?

The draw of Brazil is just one of the surreal aspects of the choice of stadiums

Are the Copa America's pitches too small? The draw of Brazil is just one of the surreal aspects of the choice of stadiums

On Monday, when the Costa Rican National Team achieved a historic feat of not conceding a single goal to Brazil in one of the early matches of the Copa America, everyone celebrated the extraordinary resilience of Gustavo Alfaro's team or the great saves of goalkeeper Patrick Sequeira. However, few have sought the reasons for the lackluster 0-0 draw at the SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, where the two teams faced each other. The captain of Seleção, while inspecting the pitch, commented: "I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the field, which will allow us to play a technical game", but with these dimensions, expect a battle, a war, many physical challenges". And that's exactly what happened, with the Brazilian national team unable to fully utilize their technical superiority and getting trapped by the Central American selection. The issue of pitch dimensions in football is always present, but usually confined to those in the industry.

Over the years, coaches have often complained about the size of the pitches, sometimes too small and sometimes too large. For example, it was said that Barcelona's dominance of Tiki Taka was also influenced by the width of the Camp Nou, with those extra meters enhancing the technical and passing qualities of the Spanish team. On the other hand, the narrow fields of the lower English leagues have turned long throw-ins into practically crosses with the feet. However, for the Copa America, the problem is slightly different and is related to the logistical complexity of this edition.

In fact, the 2024 Copa America was jointly organized in the United States by CONMEBOL and CONCACAF, replacing the designated host of Ecuador. This edition is supposed to be a sort of dress rehearsal for the 2026 World Cup, which will be hosted by the USA, Canada and Mexico. While some stadiums have been chosen among the best used in the MLS, the top football league in the United States, others are usually occupied by NFL teams. The decision to standardize all fields, in order to provide the most possible equality to the teams involved, has imposed that the minimum size be used by all, especially the width of American football stadiums. Despite their length, which exceeds one hundred meters, NFL fields are only 49 meters wide, at least twenty meters less than the standard required by the Premier League.

Through a spokesperson, CONMEBOL specified that the chosen dimensions were 100m x 64m, a choice that has created a series of surreal effects. In fields located in NFL stadiums, the side fences and advertising billboards were incredibly close to the sidelines, creating serious safety issues for the players. In those normally used in the MLS, the lines of the field were erased and redrawn a few meters further in, a headache-inducing solution. While we wait to see how these problems, including the television broadcast, will be addressed for the 2026 World Cup, there are those who have already taken advantage of the situation. Like Gustavo Alfaro, the experienced coach of Costa Rica, who asked the bus driver to stop at the field before the customary press conference, having read about the measurements: "I wanted to take a look at the grass and see its conditions and dimensions, and I noticed that there was little space between the penalty area and the sidelines. This is crucial if you want to widen the game, like Brazil does. So, from a defensive point of view, with a backline of five, we further limited the spaces on the field".