US players object to exhibition vs Venezuela in Cincinnati

CHICAGO (AP) American soccer players are objecting to the decision by the U.S. Soccer Federation to have them play Venezuela at Cincinnati's Nippert Stadium, claiming the playing surface is dangerous.

The U.S. National Soccer Team Players Association said the June 9 match will be played on a temporary grass field on top of the venue's artificial turf.

"The United States Soccer Federation is not advancing the interests of the sport of soccer or the interests of the players or the fans, but is solely focused on generating ever-increasing revenues and profits for the federation, its employees, its sponsors, and private businesses associated with the federation," the union said in a statement Thursday.

The union released an April 2 email it said it sent to USSF President Carlos Cordeiro in which players said the friendly "would be waste of time and resources, is a threat to player safety, and would be damaging to the effort to develop the United States men's national team and help the team achieve competitive success."

Nippert Stadium is the home of Major League Soccer's expansion Cincinnati team. Players said "a game played on sod on top of artificial turf will be a waste of 90 minutes and also presents a substantially increased risk of player injury."

"We do not know if the decisions about field selection are being made to reward MLS owners or to seek a venue where fans have been supporting their MLS team in significant numbers," the union said, "but it appears that either some sort of economic motivation or a deal with MLS or a lack of understanding of the many problems associated with sod on an artificial surface, or some combination of those factors has led to this decision."

The union said it received a response from a USSF lawyer on April 8 that the match would be played as scheduled.

Cordeiro did not respond to an email from The Associated Press seeking comment.

The match, announced Thursday, is the Americans' first game in Cincinnati and is likely to be the second of two friendlies for the Americans ahead of the tournament, the championship of North and Central America and the Caribbean.

The U.S. opens the Gold Cup against Guyana on June 18 at St. Paul, Minnesota, the first competitive match for the Americans in 20 months since their loss at Trinidad and Tobago caused them to miss the 2018 World Cup. The U.S. will play T&T on June 22 at Cleveland and complete Group D against Panama on June 26 at Kansas City, Kansas.

Teams must submit 23-man Gold Cup rosters to CONCACAF on June 3.

Venezuela is preparing for the Copa America in Brazil, where it opens against Peru on June 15, plays the hosts three days later and closes group play against Bolivia on June 22.

Separately, U.S. women's national team players sued the federation last month, claiming gender discrimination.

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Updated April 18, 2019

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