Despite initially being determined to host next week’s Monday Night Football game at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, the NFL has decided to move the matchup between the Chiefs and the Rams to Los Angeles due to the unsuitable field conditions at the Mexican stadium.
According to the league, the decision was made because the playing surface could not be improved enough to meet NFL standards by game time.
Rains, Heavy Use Combine to Ruin Field
Azteca has recently seen heavy use for both soccer matches and concerts, a combination that has left the field in what officials feel is an unplayable state.
“The decision is based on the determination – in consultation with the NFLPA and following a meeting and field inspection this afternoon by NFL and club field experts as well as local and independent outside experts – that the playing field at Estadio Azteca does not meet NFL standards for playability and consistency and will not meet those standards by next Monday,” the league said in a statement.
According to NFL Executive Vice President of International Mark Waller, weather conditions have also played a part in the league’s decision.
“We have worked extensively with our partners at Estadio Azteca for months in preparation for this game,” Waller said in a statement. “Until very recently, we had no major concerns. But, the combination of a difficult rainy season and a heavy multi-event calendar of events at the stadium, have resulted in significant damage to the field that presents unnecessary risks to player safety and makes it unsuitable to host an NFL game.”
Complaints Piling Up Since Surface Change
This isn’t the first time concerns have been raised over the quality of the field. In May, Azteca switched from natural grass to a hybrid surface, and reviews haven’t been positive.
On Saturday, Mexican soccer club Cruz Azul – which shares the stadium with Club America – played in a match that featured especially poor conditions, enough so that Cruz Azul manager Pedro Caixinha expressed concern about the field recently.
“The field is not in the best condition and that concerns me for the next tournament,” Caixinha told reporters. “We all know that it’s not right, that it has not been right and that it will not be all right, but those are the circumstances, and if we can help, we will do it.”
The Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Rams are both 9-1, setting up a highly anticipated clash for Monday night. The Rams opened as a one-point favorite according to the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, though those odds may be changing now that the game is moving to Los Angeles. The game is expected to be an offensive showcase, with an over/under total of 64 – only the third time this century in which an NFL total has been set at 60 points or more.
The NFL has hosted games in Mexico City each of the past two years, with the Oakland Raiders serving as the home team for both of those games. The first ever regular season NFL game at Azteca took place in 2005, when the Arizona Cardinals scored a 31-14 win over the San Francisco 49ers.