Soccer-specific stadium is a term used mainly in the United States and Canada, to refer to a sports stadium either purpose-built or fundamentally redesigned for soccer and whose primary function is to host soccer matches, as opposed to a multipurpose stadium which is for a variety of sports. A soccer-specific stadium may host other sporting events (such as lacrosse, American football and rugby) and concerts, but the design and purpose of an soccer-specific stadium is primarily for soccer. Some facilities (for example Toyota Park, Toyota Stadium and Mapfre Stadium) have a permanent stage at one end of the stadium used for staging concerts.
A soccer-specific stadium typically has amenities, dimensions and scale suitable for soccer in North America, including a scoreboard, video screen, luxury suites and possibly a roof. The field dimensions are within the range found optimal by FIFA: 110–120 yards (100–110 m) long by 70–80 yards (64–73 m) wide, These soccer field dimensions are wider than the regulation American football field width of 531⁄3 yards (48.8 m), or the 65-yard (59 m) width of a Canadian football field. The playing surface should also consist of grass as opposed to artificial turf, since the latter makes players more susceptible to injuries.
Lastly, the seating capacity is generally small enough to provide an intimate setting, between 18,000 and 30,000 for a Major League Soccer franchise, or smaller for minor league soccer teams. This is in comparison to the much larger American football stadiums that mostly range between 60,000 – 80,000 in which the original North American Soccer League teams played at and most MLS teams participated in during the league's inception.
The term "football-specific stadium" is sometimes used in countries where the sport is known as football rather than soccer, although the term is not common in countries where football is the dominant sport and thus football-specific stadiums are quite common. The term tends to have a slightly different meaning in these countries, usually referring to a stadium without an athletics track surrounding the pitch.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Division I professional soccer leagues in the United States, such as the North American Soccer League and Major League Soccer, primarily used American football fields, many of which were oversized in terms of seating capacity, undersized in terms of width of the soccer pitch, and often used artificial turf (none of which, at the time, were approved for international soccer under FIFA rules). Although many of the baseball parks had smaller capacities, natural grass and a wider field in which to place the pitch, these parks were generally in-use during the summer season, when North American–based soccer leagues, such as Major League Soccer, also hold their seasons.
The term "soccer-specific stadium" was coined by Lamar Hunt, who financed the construction of the Columbus Crew Stadium, the first soccer specific stadium used in Major League Soccer. In the 2000s, other Major League Soccer teams in the United States began constructing their own stadiums. Canada's first soccer-specific stadium was BMO Field in Toronto, home to Toronto FC. This stadium is slated to be renovated to accommodate Canadian football for the 2016 season.
^"Laws of the Game 2010/2011"(PDF). FIFA. p. 7. Retrieved October 9, 2010. Although the official Laws of the Game allow for pitches in adult matches to be 100–130 yards (91–119 m) long by 50–100 yards (46–91 m) wide. The more restrictive range is specified for international matches like the ones used in the FIFA World Cup.