Top Stories

Sunil Gulati on USWNT game cancelation: ‘We screwed up’


U.S. Soccer is pointing the finger at itself for the snafu that forced the cancelation of a U.S. Women’s National Team game over the weekend.

The World Cup-winning U.S. had a friendly against Trinidad & Tobago scrapped on Saturday, less than 24 hours before it was set to be played, because of poor field conditions. The match was set to be played at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii, but the artificial turf field, which was not inspected prior to the scheduling of the Victory Tour affair, proved to be in too poor a condition to play on.

“We had a series of mistakes involving this game,” U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati told the New York Times. “We screwed up. It won’t happen again.”

Gulati, who also labeled the incident as a “black eye” for his federation, acknowledged that the field should have been inspected. That did not happen until the weekend, when head coach Jill Ellis and her players saw gaps in the seams of the field as well as filler pebbles that were described as “sharp rocks” by the Americans.

“I can’t recall anything like this ever happening before,” said Gulati.

Along with being displeased with the condition of the field at Aloha Stadium, the Americans were also not thrilled with the condition of the grass surface that they trained on in the days leading up to the match. Megan Rapinoe tore her right ACL on that field on Friday, and the U.S. believes that practice field could have played at least a part in her suffering the non-contact injury.

What do you think of Gulati’s admission? Still wondering how this could happen? How big of a black eye is this for U.S. Soccer?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Enough is enough. The women and men should be equal. Aspartame but equal does not work.

    He nation, one team! Let all Americans (male, female, trans, neuter,etc…) play on one team. May the best players win!

  2. Lawsuits will be coming after he admitted to that! Many people were upset on IG saying how they flew from other parts of the states and spent thousands for nothing. Bunch of divas. Leave ussoccer to make a bad choice and then cry over on how his mistake could happen.

  3. when is Sunil going to admit he was wrong to sell he farm to Jurgen Klinsmann. Still waiting for the day I can be a USMNT fan again.

    • A fan who abandons the team because he doesn’t like the coach is not a fan at all, in my book.

      Also, if you are so “over it”, why are you in here complaining every day?

  4. Well at least he is man enough to admit the obvious. I’m glad the ladies stood up for themselves. Playing on artificial turf is one thing but playing on crappy turf is another thing altogether.

  5. Gulati, you greedy creature. Did you screw up by giving Seattle and Orlando Copa America games while those stadiums have artificial turf instead of real grass?

    Now they have to put layers upon layers in order to make those stadiums semi-playable…

    Football must be played on real grass, not on fake turf that causes cancer.

  6. Has anybody asked the question as to why there is not a natural grass surface in Hawaii? You would think that in Hawaii’s climate, a natural grass surface could be grown. Why would they even think to have artificial surface to play on?

    • I can actually answer this! Check out the wiki on Aloha Stadium…it used to be able to have several configurations by using air pressured hover maneuvering… the slab underneath has to be meticulously flat in order to use the technology… back in the day they had to roll up the astronaut…. now the field just sits on a giant concrete slab. No config changes anymore…I suppose they could do the old George Toma hex plates of grown grass circa silver dome WC1990

      • “back in the day they had to roll up the astronaut”.

        Brilliant innovation at the time! From what I understand, this technology involves laying down one to two layers of rolled-up astronauts underneath the turf. Quite springy and wildly popular with the players. Only used in a handful of places now due to cost.

    • That stadium is used A LOT for different types of events. High school football, concerts, graduation, etc. Besides that, lots of rain isn’t always a good thing for fields. It’s the same reason Atlanta won’t have a natural grass field. Too much use to sustain one, even with a roof that could limit the rain it gets.

  7. This is no different than men’s collegiate sports around the country. Of course they’re going to have better facilities, equipment and supplies. The revenue justifies it and often helps pay for the rest of the sports programs.

    This isn’t a politically correct/gender equality argument. That is not valid. Your own quote invalidates that.

    “…but the reality is that the men’s game has more money and prestige.”

  8. I am not making a gender equality argument. Although, that would be valid, but the reality is that the men’s game has more money and prestige. However, of the products being offered by US Soccer, their best, most valuable and most successful product is the USWNT. They should be protecting that investment. In fact, i think they should go beyond that invest in the USWNT more heavily than we do now. It would not take a large investment to keep the team where it is compared to the men’s game. We hope that the USMNT will catch up, the women are already world class. The USWNT does make money. Their tour made a lot.

    • If Sunil and US soccer could get away with making the Mens team play on turf they would. It’s just the teams they are hosting demanding better. I mean just a few months ago Mexico nearly walked because that awful field on the Alamodome. As they probably should have because that was pretty dangerous conditions.

      • On the men’s side, you also have to deal with their club teams who have MUCH more say so than in the women’s games, especially for friendlies, when the clubs don’t have to release their players. So, for these clubs to release their players (and risk injury to their investment) for a friendly, they won’t allow the games to be on pitches they consider unsafe. On the women’s side, the clubs have FAR less power … most are more than happy to be able to say “So and so, who just played for the USWNT …”

  9. This is unacceptable. Hopefully good comes out of the situation. Regardless of economics all of our USNATs programs should be treated first class

  10. Perhaps, our most successful program and the most storied women’s soccer program in the world should be given more attention. They should at a minimum be co-equals with the men given the gaps in success between the two.

    • When the Women’s team draws enough fans to pay for a grass pitch they can have a grass pitch. Until then you can pay for it. Soccer is still a business. And boring female soccer is not a money maker.

      • I don’t know where people are getting this notion that the women don’t draw like the men do.

        These are the attendances of the 6 matches that the USWNT has played so far on its victory tour:
        44,028 vs Costa Rica
        20,535 vs Costa Rica
        34,538 vs Haiti
        35,753 vs Haiti
        23,603 vs Brazil
        32,869 vs Brazil
        Average: 31,888

        For comparison’s sake, these are the attendances of the last 6 home friendlies the men have played:
        20,271 vs Panama
        64,369 vs Mexico
        44,835 vs Guatemala
        28,896 vs Peru
        29,308 vs Brazil
        9,214 vs Costa Rica
        Average: 32,815

        Do you seriously think the men would draw over 30,000 for friendlies against Haiti?

      • Well, thy do make enough. In fact they make more than enough. In the Women’s World Cup, Canada announced a record profit. Mostly do to the large influx of American fans who came to see the US team as well as the Canadians doing well.

        In the run up to the WC, there was a big controversy when the Canadian World Cup organizers decided to use artificial turf, although in their proposal bid, it was to be all natural grass. When this was pointed out, FIFA did nothing and when it was pointed out, natural grass was part of the bid, they were told that essentially it was too late to do anything. Then at the last minute, a company stepped up to supply natural grass on all competition and some training field at NO COST and the Canadian organizers and FIFA turned it down. When the German team wanted to protest, they were told by the German Football federation that the harshest penalties would be imposed by FIFA and the German Football fed if it came about.

        It’s been obvious that Womens football is second string, not only under FIFA, but now it looks like USFF is the same. Gulati may admit they “screwed up” because of the embarrassment caused by the USWNT refusal to play, but if the USSF didn’t inspect the field beforehand it is because of indifference, not a mistake.

        The USSF has failed to make available a set of standards for fields and field conditions that all promoters or organizers must adhere to before a any US national team game can be sanctioned or played. It’s not hard to do. And coming from past experience in this field, it will be a lawsuit that the USSF will lose and the Local, State or Federal Courts will then be making these decisions for them.

      • A very valid point, but we are really talking about revenue here as opposed to attendance…. this is informed by attendance, ticket price, merchandise sales, concessions, etc and the impact is material. A prime USMNT friendly against a top team (i.e. the sort of match where the USSF has been willing to pay the $200-400k required to lay down turf, if necessary) typically generates $4-5 million. By contrast, a women’s home friendly is considered successful if it generates $1.5 million. You don’t want the playing surface to be eating up 30% of your entire revenue pool when it could be eating up 0%..

        The gap gets bigger if you consider TV revenue, which for women’s friendlies is effectively negligible.

        Washington Post likes to write about this stuff in their budget reviews of USSF if it’s interesting to you.


      • I don’t know where these people get the idea that the women’s game is boring.

        Of where they got the idea that they’re truly fans of the sport, perhaps.

    • BW hit the nail on the head.

      There’s no question the women Nats deserve better but co-equals implies they bring the same thing to the table. Unfortunately, they do not. Far too many people want to make this a gender equality issue when it’s convenient but ignore the lack of equality in revenue generated.

      Again, they deserve better but stop the co-equal nonsense because the gaps exist for a very legitimate reason.

    • Lets be honest, the match in the MNT played int Alamodome probably shouldn’t have happened. That field was dangerous and they were lucky no one was injured.

  11. Why is it that the MNT gets a temporary grass field, albeit a bad one, when they play at stadiums with astro-turf and the WNT does not. Gulati and USSF should also answer for scheduling games and tournaments at stadiums with turf fields and laying those horrible grass fields as we witnessed in Atlanta, San Antonio, New England and Seattle. Out of 105 stadiums in the USA that seat 50k or more, at least half or more have grass fields.

    • Well… the economic answer is that MNT can still generate a tidy profit on a friendly played on temporary grass (which isn’t cheap to lay down, even for one-off). WNT friendlies barely make money if at all (that’s why these “victory tours” only happen every so often) and laying down a temporary grass field would almost certainly cause these games to be money losers. Given the USSF is hardly made of money, they are unlikely to accept losses simply so the women can play meaningless friendlies in Hawaii.

      As for why they don’t just schedule the games on regular grass pitches to begin with (particularly after the noise and litigation building up to the WWC), that’s a pretty good question….

      • “victory tours happen every so often”.

        Yea, no $%$&. I mean, they happen when they win the World Cup or maybe the gold at the Olympics. That is why it is only so often.

        If the men won, i am sure we would do the same thing.
        (Hell, if the men made it to the semi-finals, I would be all for a victory tour! 🙂 )

        Jokes aside, your underlying point is valid. It is a money grab for the USSF and a way to try their best to promote the women’s game with the momentum from the WC.

        I think the USSF was on auto pilot for the Victory Tour. Schedule the game, get the $$, move on to the next.

      • Personally, I don’t suspect that the Victory Tours do make money. Probably they are about break-even or even a modest loss. Seems like they’d hold them even if we finished 2nd, provided they make actually make money. Why not? The women want to play, and everybody likes more money…

        But no, I don’t have the figures to prove it out either way… so it’s probably just a matter of perception

    • It could be argued that these temporary grass fields are as dangerous as bad turf. 2 day grass over concrete gives way unexpectedly when players try to plant, change direction….. surface also plays horribly irregular, uneven and slow. Repeatedly there are issues in exhibition as well as qualifying matches with US Soccer. Set a specific standard for US Soccer if a stadium wants to be considered to host a match and stick to it. It is embarassing. We gripe and put ourselves above other CONCACAF nations, use away fields as an excuse, yet… with all our resources and the pedestal we seem to place ourselves on- we can’t put together/insist on a decent soccer field for our national team?


Leave a Comment