With an approximate area of nearly 77,000 square feet, there’s a lot of room to run on a soccer field.
When it comes to the World Cup, some players set out to cover every inch of it.
Athletes from 32 countries are lacing up their cleats and racing across the newly constructed stadiums in Qatar this year. Using information from past competitions, it won’t be long before certain stars exceed marathon distances over the course of the tournament.
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Just how far do soccer players go during a game? And how is that data even available?
Let’s run through some facts:
How far do players run in a soccer game?
Soccer players pile on miles over the course of a game. On average, at the highest levels of the game, a player can exceed five miles total and even eclipse nine.
Which player ran the most in the World Cup?
Ivan Perišić covered the most ground across the 2018 World Cup.
The Croatian winger traveled 45.08 miles during the event, according to FIFA data. He was followed by teammates Ivan Rakitić (45.07 miles) and Luka Modrić (44.93 miles) for the longest distance run during the tournament. Perišić’s 45-plus miles are almost enough to make it all the way across Qatar from east to west.
It’s no surprise that three Croatian starters topped the list in 2018. Not only did the team reach the World Cup Final, but its first three elimination rounds games all required 30 minutes of extra time, with two of those matches going to penalty kicks.
The 2014 World Cup was evidently a more fast-paced competition. Germany’s Thomas Müller led that competition with a total distance of 52.2 miles in seven matches. Like Croatia, Germany made it all the way to the World Cup Final that year.
How fast do soccer players run?
The fastest soccer players in the world can exceed 20 miles per hour.
Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Croatia’s Ante Rebić clocked the fastest sprint speeds of the 2018 World Cup at 21.13 miles per hour. Chelsea’s Antonio Rüdiger topped the charts in the Premier League last season with a maximum sprint speed of 22.82 miles per hour (h/t Sky Sports). By comparison, Jonathan Taylor of the Indianapolis Colts had the fastest ball carrier speed of any NFL player last year at 22.13 miles per hour.
How is running distance measured in soccer?
Electronic performance and tracking systems (EPTS) are among the tools FIFA has explored for measuring player distance and ball tracking.
In the case of top Premier League teams, they take it a step further. Arsenal and Liverpool are among the teams that have used missile-tracking technology to track player movement.
Sportloqic has created its own system for data capturing. The company, which is primarily known for its hockey analysis, trained a Computer Vision-powered AI machine to calculate numbers on players.
FIFA announced in September that players will get insights into physical performance metrics, enhanced football data metrics and enhanced football intelligence metrics during the 2022 World Cup through the FIFA Players App.
Is soccer the sport with the most running?
Soccer players run much more than athletes in other major professional sports leagues.
Fred VanVleet, Dejounte Murray and Tyrese Maxey were among the most active NBA players in 2021-22, and none of them surpassed an average greater than three miles per game. Soccer matches are almost twice as long as NBA games, though, plus NBA players do not play the full contest. By taking VanVleet’s average distance (2.82 miles per game) and playing time (37.9 minutes per game) and spreading it out across 90 minutes, the number reaches 6.7 miles, right in the ballpark of how much a soccer player travels in a match.
In the NFL, wide receivers and cornerbacks cover the most ground, but they run about 1.25 miles per game.
When it comes to baseball, it would take 15 home runs to get over a mile running the bases. There is running when it comes to fielding, of course, but the overall distance covered in an MLB game pales in comparison to any soccer match.