If you’ve been watching soccer for a while now, you may have noticed that they wet the soccer fields consistently—pre-game and during halftime.
I normally don’t pay too much attention when they do, but in one particular game, an unsuspecting groundskeeper was literally showered by a sprinkler that popped out of nowhere.
Although I felt bad for the guy, it was pretty funny. He was a good sport about it, too. Then, it triggered a curiosity in me.
Why do they even wet the fields? Isn’t that counterintuitive? Won’t that make the field slippery?
Why Do You Even Need to Wet the Fields?
The most basic answer is a wetter field means a faster game overall. And as we all know, a faster game leads to more exciting games.
Another thing is a wet field removes the advantages of inconsistencies of the field. Go to any park and notice that some parts of the field are more game-worthy than others.
An inconsistency like that can lead to a game advantage, especially if the better grass coverage benefits the other team more.
A wet field also lowers the risk for serious injuries. We all know that scraping your knee or elbow on dry grass can lead to some nasty cuts and bruises. You can remove the risk of that by maintaining a good level of moisture on the field.
When is the Best Time to Wet the Field?
The best time to wet the field is around 24 to 48 hours before a match. The pitch should be wet but not soaking wet. If you overwater the field, it can lead to oversaturation of the soil, which will make it too soft and slippery.
Just before the game starts, a short watering is also in order. Think of it as a refill. It won’t be as thorough as the first watering a day prior, but it will still improve the pitch quality tremendously.
But bear in mind that watering before the game is still dependent on many factors. They need to consider the game length, time of day, surface type, rainfall level, and a lot more when deciding how much water the pitch needs.
Why Do They Water During Halftime?
After half a game is played on the field, there are bound to be dry spots here and there. Added to that is the fact that players will have run over some spots more times, there will be some level of unevenness in the field.
If the sun is out, they will also need to account for some dry spots where the sun is hitting the pitch. Even if the game is played at night, there are bound to be dry spots once the water seeps through the soil.
Who Decides to Water the Fields?
Normally, the stadium will have a standard operating procedure on these things. Remember that not all grass and soil are created equal.
A treatment that has worked in one field will not always work in another.
That being said, teams actually have a say if the pitch is to even be watered at all. In most leagues, the rule is not stated clearly. It’s more of a gentleman’s rule where both teams should agree whether to water or not.
In some cases, the home team gets the decision. It falls under the fair gamesmanship of soccer, basically.
For FIFA, however, the rule is clear. The pitch is watered only if both teams in play agree. If for some reason a team does not want to water the pitch before the game, then they won’t.
It makes for less exciting games, though.
What Are the Advantages of a Wet Field?
The most obvious advantage is the speed. In a wet pitch, the ball travels faster and farther. This is because the moisture will make the ball sleek and glide for much longer.
If a team is aggressive, they will prefer playing on a newly watered field.
Many home teams would forbid watering of the field at halftime when they are in the lead. This is because it’s easier to play defense when the ball is slower on the pitch.
Best Cleats for Wet Grass
All soccer shoes today should be perfectly fine to play on wet grass. They are designed with that in mind, so that shouldn’t be that surprising.
That being said, there are some shoes that perform marginally better than most.
Adidas X Ghosted comes to mind. It’s worn by many professionals, and it’s easy to see why. It’s perfect for wet grass and soft surfaces because the cleats are more rigid than usual. This should allow you to change direction and pace quite easily even on soft and wet fields.
It also helps that it’s encased in a breathable yet durable material. And quite honestly, it’s a pretty attractive shoe—and I don’t say that often about soccer cleats.
How Often Should a Soccer Field Be Watered?
The answer will be different for any field. As I’ve said, it depends on many factors. The weather, type of soil, grass, humidity, and more all play a part.
That being said, there is some cookie-cutter formula that seems to work quite well in most cases. It’s recommended that you water the field at least once a week.
But this is the bare minimum—so remember that.
Some fields would need more than that. There are even some fields that need watering every day.
How Do You Water the Field?
If you’ve been watching soccer, you know the answer to this. They use sprinklers, but not just ordinary sprinklers. These are types of sprinklers that only come out when it’s time to do their job.
It’s no wonder groundskeepers can sometimes be caught off-guard by these sprinklers. They just pop out.
Back then when sprinklers weren’t as popular, fields would have several groundskeepers go about and water the field.
Today, watering the field is as easy as clicking a button on your mobile phone. Big teams now use sophisticated irrigation systems for their field.
There have even been some reports of fields using underwater irrigation. But for the most part, most teams just stick to the ol’ jet sprinklers that we know and love.