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Distance and speed soccer players run

how far do soccer players run in game

World Cup fever is reaching its peak, and while the games themselves are quite exciting (understatement of the year), being the #runnerds we are, we thought it would be interesting to dive into the running side of the sport and find out how far – and how fast – these players run in a game. (Also note that the writer and the editor of this piece are Americans and thus have the nerve to refer to the game as “soccer” and not “football”. )

At first glance, it may not appear soccer players run all that much in a match. Sure, the player with the ball and the few people near him are hustling but the majority of the field is light jogging or slowly walking.

Since it’s all about the short spurts, soccer players don’t run that far, right?

Well, not exactly.

A full-length soccer game is 90 minutes. If every player on the field was running or sprinting for an hour and a half, soccer would look more like hockey, with line changes every few minutes. Instead, players run in short bursts, using the time when the ball is on the other side of the field to recover. Add up those bursts of sprinting and jogging, and the average (male) soccer player runs anywhere from 4.5 to 9.5 miles in one game. The distance is varied because of the different positions – midfielders run the most during a game.

These numbers are not estimated guesses, but real data from a new technology called SportsVU.

SportsVU uses HD cameras to track moving objects on a soccer field, giving coaches and players a real-time calculation of distance covered. While technology like this has been implemented in soccer leagues in Europe for a few years, this is the first time that numbers this accurate have been introduced globally. And what better a stage to do so than the World Cup?

The timing could not have been more perfect because the heat and humidity in Brazil is so oppressive. Players can become fatigued much more easily in this type of weather, so it is essential they are not overworked in a game, thus hindering their ability to perform well in the next. That might answer your question as to why a coach would substitute his best player with 20 minutes left in a match. While a variety of factors could be at play, the most common reason is the player had run a substantial amount more than the team average that game. In fact, if you are watching a World Cup game on television, look at when a player is removed from the game – here in the states, ESPN and ABC have included a sidebar on the screen detailing the distance that player has covered if that player has run more than the team average.

If you are interested in learning more about the fitness of your favorite player, or just want to see who the fittest athletes are, FIFA’s website has a full list of players and how far they have run in the tournament so far. It even has a category of each player’s top speed: Côte d’Ivoire’s Serge Aurier wins that title so far with an impressive top speed of almost 21 MPH.

And who has run the furthest?

So far that honor goes to America’s Michael Bradley – in 270 minutes, Bradley has run 38K (23.6 miles) in 85 degree weather with 83 percent humidity.

And you thought going for a run on a sunny day was difficult.

Written by Riley Nelson / Photo by Creative Commons