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USL PRO Outsider: Home Field Advantage

By Josh Brokaw

There is only one team in the USL PRO that is undefeated.  The Richmond Kickers are currently sitting at seven wins, five draws, and zero losses.  It is impressive for sure, but it is also telling that the majority of Richmonds games have been at home.  Out of all twelve of their games only one has been played away in league play.  Granted they won the away game but it was against the Wilmington Hammerheads.  The Hammerheads haven’t exactly had a fantastic season so far.


This got me wondering about home field advantage in the USL PRO.  How much does it really affect teams in the third division.  After all some teams don’t exactly have huge numbers of fans cheering them on.  Granted there is still the small issue of travel for away teams but is that really all there is to it?


If you want to know how much travel can hurt a team just look at the Richmond Kickers polar opposites, the Antigua Barracudas.  Unlike the Kickers, they have not played a single game at home.  They are the USL PRO’s traveling team.  It has been a terrible season for this team.  They have not managed to scrape together a single win.  They haven’t even been able to get a draw.  You can be sure that a big factor in this team’s failure to produce comes from not having any home games.


What about teams that don’t play in front of big crowds?  Do they still have home field advantage?  Let’s take a look at VSI Tampa Bay.  Their average home game sees around 250 people.  Those numbers are not exactly the twelfth man on the field you hear about when it comes to home field advantage.  Their home record is 6-1-1.  While their away record is 1-5-1.  That is a pretty huge difference.  Only 1 single win away out of 7 games.  So despite VSI playing in front of a very small amount of people they are still seeing a huge difference at home compared to away.  Perhaps it’s the heat?


Even the best team in the league has weaker away stats.  Orlando City has won every single game they’ve played at home.  They have been defeated once in league play this season and it was away.  They have also drawn twice away.


There is another factor that could be giving these teams a home field advantage, the field itself.  Unlike other sports the requirements for a pro soccer field isn’t exact.  It has to fit within a range of measurements but each field is a little different.  There is also the fact that each field has its own field due to differences in grass.  I’m not just talking about artificial turf compared to real grass.  I’m also talking about the makeup of what’s under the grass.  Ask any player and they will tell you that each field has its own feel.

So why is home field advantage in soccer such a big deal?  I think in the end it is a combination of all of the above.  A home team doesn’t have to spend time on a bus, they have the support of their fans behind them, and they better understand the field under their feet.  So even if the stadium is a converted baseball field and you are only playing in front of 250 fans, you still have that edge over the away team.

One thought on “USL PRO Outsider: Home Field Advantage

  1. Is it home field advantage or travelling disadvantage? I agree that the fan base and playing in front of the home fans in USL Pro is not exactly like the home field advantage provided by fans in other sports. So what is the home field advantage. Mr. Brokaw hilighted a couple of things that I believe are the biggest factors in the home team having an advantage.

    The First is the variety of soccer fields at the different venues in the league. The fact that a soccer pitch doesn’t have to meet exacting specifications is a significant factor. Unlike “American” Football which requires the field be 120 yards long and 53.3 yards wide FIFA mandates a soccer field lengthe be between 100-130 yards long and between 50-100 yards wide. Lest you think there is a big difference going from playing at a venue where the soccer field has been adapted to fit an American Football playing surface and a soccer specific venue look at the distance between the sidelines and the penalty area. The difference could be as much as 10 yards difference depending on the field. Also a team playing on a multipurpose field that is not nearly as wide as a soccer specific field will have less territory to defend. Conversely if a team is accustomed to playing on a wider pitch it may be a bit of an adjustment for them when they get on a smaller field.

    I’m sure the surface itself may be a factor but I don’t feel it is as big a factor as the dimensions of the pitch.

    The other main factor has to be the travel. Anyone who has taken a trip of over 2 hours knows how much the ride takes out of you. Perhaps it is the travel schedule that has a bearing on the performance of the road team. Perhaps it depends on when the road team arrives in the host city. Does the road team arrive a day early or the day of the match. I think this may have a bearing on the road team’s performance.

    At any rate, it is very clear that this year in USL Pro the home team has an advantage.

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