U.S. Soccer is not done dealing with its Hawaiian turf issues. In a letter obtained by Honolulu's KHON-TV, U.S. Soccer Federation General Counsel Lisa K. Levine accuses Hawaii Stadium Authority, the operator of Aloha Stadium, of disregarding the agreement between the two groups. U.S. Soccer Secretary General and Deputy Executive Director Jay Berhalter are also named in the document.
The most strongly worded part of the letter reads:
"The field provided in the Facility by the Stadium Authority was unfit, unsafe and unplayable – for example, the field has seams, is uneven and contains pebbles as part of the in-fill throughout the surface."
But according to Stadium manager Scott Chan, U.S. Soccer officials signed the contract and inspected the field on Thursday.
"They made it very clear that it was acceptable," he said on Sunday. Nothing came up until last night, at the last hour."
Chan's comments suggest the USWNT might have breached their own contract -- or, at the very least, that the Hawaii Stadium Authority sees it that way. While the HSA hasn't made any definitive statement, there could be a battle between the two sides over who broke the terms of their deal.
The U.S. Women's National Team was scheduled to play Trinidad and Tobago in a friendly in Honolulu this past Sunday. When the U.S. team practiced on the field Saturday, players insisted on canceling the match.
"There were sharp rocks ingrained all over the field," wrote the team in a Monday article for The Players' Tribune. "They were everywhere. The artificial turf was actually pulling up out of the ground, and the turf itself was both low-grade and aging. This was a playing surface that looked like it hadn't been replaced in years."
— Julie Foudy (@JulieFoudy) December 6, 2015
This came after a Friday practice on a training ground that included "sewer plates and plastic coverings" laying on the sidelines. Long time U.S. star Megan Rapinoe tore her ACL on that ground, putting her 2016 Rio Olympics aspirations in danger. Coach Jill Ellis did articulate, though, that Rapinoe's injury was not causing by the practice surface.
If there is a legal fight, it could get messy quick. U.S. Soccer made two separate agreements, one with Stadium Authority and one with the Hawaii Tourism Agreement. The Stadium Authority relationship called for the USWNT to play rent-free, collect ticket revenue and control broadcast and photo rights. Stadium Authority's revenue would be made off food, beverage and parking.
Stadium Authority gave U.S. soccer a seven-day window to inspect the field -- but they didn't.
In a New York Times article published Tuesday, U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati apologized for not inspecting the field. He said knowing the NFL's Pro Bowl would be held in the near future (Jan. 31), the federation overlooked an inspection.
He did not mention the Thursday walkthrough, which KHON confirmed Tuesday evening.
The legal debate comes down to a few details on each side. The contract called for a "first-class" field, which Stadium Authority did not reciprocate, based on pictures. However, U.S. Soccer had a chance to inspect and alter the field, but the federation waited until the day before the match to start spinning the wheels.
In terms of the Hawaii Tourism Authority deal, the tourism office was slotted to pay U.S. Soccer $200,000 for a "Game Promotion Agreement." Half the money would be due before kickoff.
However, Hawaii Tourism Authority President and CEO George Szigeti says none of the sponsorship funds had been paid out, as the U.S. Soccer Federation never signed the contract.
Poor ticket sales may also become a pivotal point in each side's arguments. According to KHON, U.S. Soccer expected to sell 25,000 to 30,000 tickets for the match, but on the weekend of the game, only 16,000 had been purchased.
Meanwhile, the Aloha Stadium turf was installed for less than $2 million in 2011. It is still under warranty, and Stadium Authority sees 2017 as the ideal year for replacement.
Turf conditions have been a major issue for the USWNT for a few years, escalating in April 2013 when Sydney Leroux tweeted this photo:
This is why soccer should be played on grass! pic.twitter.com/fsNGi27oRY
— Sydney Leroux Dwyer (@sydneyleroux) April 15, 2013
The 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup was the first such men's or women's event to be played on artificial turf. FIFA was subjected to intense criticism from many parties, including the USWNT, former star Mia Hamm, and even Lakers star Kobe Bryant, but they refused to change their decision. Artificial turf is a less safe playing surface than natural grass, but it is cheaper to maintain and less vulnerable to damage from gameplay.
The Hawaii Attorney General's office is reportedly reading the letter from U.S. Soccer. So far, no firm decisions or statements have been made.
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.