The World Cup-winning U.S. women's national soccer team abruptly canceled a friendly soccer game against Trinidad and Tobago, scheduled for Sunday, because of poor field conditions.
The players and coaches, along with the U.S. Soccer Federation, decided to call off Sunday's game in Hawaii after inspecting the artificial turf field, parts of which were peeling away from the ground.
"There were sharp rocks ingrained all over the field. They were everywhere. The artificial turf was actually pulling up out of the ground, and the turf itself was both low-grade and aging. This was a playing surface that looked like it hadn't been replaced in years," the team wrote in The Players Tribune.
Former U.S. soccer star Julie Foudy tweeted a photo of the turf being lifted away from the ground.
The cancellation of the game, which would have been the seventh on the team's 10-game World Cup victory tour, is the latest in a series of events that highlight the disparities between men's and women's soccer in the U.S.
Players have protested playing on artificial turf fields for years, citing bad ball bounces, painful turf burn and delayed recovery time for injuries. The complaints have been especially loud since it was announced last year that the women's World Cup would be played on artificial surfaces instead of natural grass, prompting some international female players to file a lawsuit against FIFA, alleging gender discrimination. The men's World Cup is played on grass.
The U.S. women's team went on to win the World Cup, despite playing only on artificial surfaces, and shattered TV ratings for soccer in the U.S. in the process. The triumph did little to change protocol regarding field conditions for the women's team, though; eight of the 10 victory-tour games were scheduled for artificial turf. And, according to Foudy, the field at Aloha stadium in Honolulu wasn't inspected before the match.
In explaining their decision to sit out Sunday's game, the players wrote: "Soccer is our job. Our bodies are our jobs. And nothing should ever be put in competition with our protection and safety as players."
"Player safety is our number one priority at all times and after a thorough inspection throughout the day, we determined it was in the best interest for both teams to not play the match," U.S. Soccer spokesman Neil Buethe said in a statement. "We regret not being able to play in front of our fantastic, loyal fans."
The statement also said the federation would refund all tickets.