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April 17, 2024 | Katelyn Keenehan

Industry expert to have significant role in the FIFA World Cup

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville hosted the FIFA Pitch Research Field Day on April 10 and 11.

Dr. John Sorochan is certainly an expert in his field, and we quite literally mean “field.” He is an internationally recognized expert on turf, a Distinguished Professor of Turfgrass Science and Management at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK), and a Co-Director of the Center for Athletic Field Safety.

According to a press release from FIFA, there are 16 field locations for the 2026 World Cup; including in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The international organization has selected UTK, and Michigan State University to produce the best possible pitches (fields) for the worldwide tournament. The goal is to have each field as close to the same as possible.

“Both already had world-leading reputations, both already led by world-leading turf professors, I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel, it was already here,” said FIFA Senior Pitch Management Manager Alan Ferguson in the release.

The University of Tennessee hosted the FIFA Pitch Research Field Day on April 10 and 11, in part to congratulate Sorochan and his turf management program. Additionally, hundreds of people came to Knoxville to discuss the challenges and opportunities for the project. There are some pretty significant challenges, most notably to make each surface as identical as possible in different geographical climates, and to help avoid player injury due to field conditions.

“Sustainability is kind of a unique component to this. You know, the ability to produce harvestable sod in as much as 16 to 20 weeks is paramount. We can do something really fast, and we can also cut down trucking costs, too. In theory, we can probably do this closer to urban areas and take up a large, vacated parking lot and grow the sod close to the stadiums, so you reduce transport costs as well,” Sorochan said in the release.

It is an exciting win for Sorochan, UTK, and the greater Knoxville community.

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