Andrew Turco of the Regional Plan Association has some good thoughts on accommodating soccer as it rises in popularity in the U.S.:
Not only does this new population of soccer players put a certain type of new demand on grassy public space, but even within this diverse group of players, different sub-groups place different demands on field space. Youth soccer leagues require organized space that can be easily managed by coaches, while those playing casually often need to be able to show up at a field and play whenever they can bring together the needed number of people. For others, playing soccer in a public open space can simply be a way of building community and staking out a part of the public arena.
Those in charge of parks have the challenge of investing in facilities that respond to a variety of residents’ current interests and activities while, at the same time, balancing that responsiveness with the flexibility to accommodate new uses in the future.
Turco also notes that soccer is a highly adaptable sport, noting that a ball, a field of any size and surface, and something to mark two goals is usually all that’s needed. Like basketball, there’s a real pick-up nature to the sport, but without any permanent structures like a hoop required. A portable net or even a couple of orange cones will do fine.
Baseball diamonds can be used as multi-purpose fields. In the north, hockey rink boards can be left up and soccer played inside them in the summers. Parks can be designed to provide flat, open and unprogrammed areas for pick-up games. And so-called soccer “pitches” can accommodate the sport in small spaces, as advocated by Washington, D.C.’s Urban Soccer Initiative.