Estadio Azteca's new turf will carry heavy burden over rest of 2018
MEXICO CITY -- Estadio Azteca's switch from natural grass to a hybrid turf came about with the promise that it would create a world-class playing surface on the level of La Liga's Santiago Bernabeu or Camp Nou venues. However, installation issues -- the job was finished just three days before the start of the Apertura 2018 season -- inclement weather and a heavier load of games could ground those expectations.
The iconic Mexican stadium, home primarily to Club America, has already hosted four soccer matches in two weeks. The pounding the turf has taken is already evident, and with close to 50 events scheduled for the remainder of the year it's difficult to see how the new surface can hold up.
The change in playing surface came about because of the addition of another Liga MX tenant. Mexico City's Cruz Azul moved in from the 72-year-old Estadio Azul over the summer, prompting a joint decision between that club, America and the stadium's management calling for a new turf to handle the increased load.
Cruz Azul, which was first to test the surface, has nine Saturday home Apertura dates scheduled at the venue. America has eight regular-season home games scheduled at Azteca. Between those 17 games and the Liga MX playoffs, the stadium could see up to 25 Liga MX matches during the Apertura should the two clubs meet in the final.
The Copa MX tournament also comes into play. The two clubs will play four group-phase home matches between them in the tournament, and as with the league slate that total could climb -- in this case to 11 should both clubs vie for the national cup title.
America's women's team will also call the stadium home on selected Mondays over the next five months, meaning Azteca will see limited time off between the weekend slate in some instances. Of the women's eight home dates, seven are scheduled at Azteca, with the remaining game against Puebla taking place at America's practice facilities.
Leo Cuellar's team is a legitimate contender for the Liga MX women's title and would add three more games to Azteca's plate should it reach the final.
NFL visits again
For the third year in a row, Estadio Azteca will host a regular-season NFL game when the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams meet Nov. 19. A well-maintained turf remains a top condition for the NFL in determining where its international games will take place.
In years past, Azteca's turf has emerged in a tattered state after each NFL game; however, the hybrid surface is not yet attached, giving the NFL options while helping to conserve the stadium's turf.
Facing the music
Estadio Azteca, located in the Mexico City suburb of Santa Ursula, has been known to host high-profile concerts. The coming months offer no exception.
International pop star Shakira will perform two concerts at the stadium, on Oct. 11 and 12. Stadium management will install protective boards over the surface in anticipation of the crowds, but that won't guarantee that the turf will escape damage.
In October, the stadium will host a music festival put together by two radio stations. About 150,000 fans are expected over two days, again putting the integrity of the pitch at risk.
Estadio Azteca will be bustling with activity at least once in each of 2018's remaining 22 weeks. That could add up to 49 events.