With 90 minutes of non-stop action on a huge pitch, soccer players need to be in remarkable shape to play at a high level. Most players are almost constantly moving, even if it is not always high intensity. So the question, just how much do soccer players run in a typical game?
Soccer players at the highest level can end up covering an average of about 7 miles (11.2 kilometers), depending on a few factors. Position, skill level, game intensity, age, and more all play into just how much movement adds up.
Attempting To Calculate Distance In a Game
Throughout the history of soccer, teams have been attempting to get a rough estimate on how much distance a soccer player covers during the course of an entire game. Without the use of technology, it is a lot of guesswork, as a person needs to break down the entire game and track every single time a player changes direction. Doing that for even one game is tedious work, at best.
The advancement in technology has made things quite a bit easier, which has led to some more accurate estimations. When watching professional matches, it seems like players would average just over 7 miles (11.2 kilometers) of movement per match. If the match is particularly fast-paced with a lot of attacking in the midfield, midfielders could see that number go up quite a bit. The range is usually set at around 5-10 miles (8-16.1 kilometers), but it is better to analyze individually to see any significant changes.
Tracking devices can now be worn by soccer players, which helps out in a lot of ways. Whether it is a watch, something that goes underneath the jersey, or analyzing with cameras, teams can compare games and practices to see what type of effort players are showing each night.
What Type of Intensity Is The Movement?
It might seem like soccer players are running around the entire 90 minutes, but follow one player and start to notice how everything goes in a match. Most of the time, players are finding plenty of opportunities to walk or even stand during a match. Getting these strategic breaks can make covering so many miles that much more attainable.
On average, soccer players cover about 2/3 of their distance by either walking or lightly jogging. It makes sense for players to do this, because the last thing anybody wants is to burn themselves out hustling when they do not have to. A player should be looking to conserve energy when the time is right, and taking the rest is beneficial.
It is very common for coaches at a younger level to stress the importance of always hustling. While that does apply to some degree, it is not sustainable for even the most in-shape athletes. A person running at high speed for the entire 90 minutes is not going to have enough energy to play well later in the match.
How Fast Can Players Move At Top Speed?
The majority of movement might be at a pretty small speed, but the intensity increases in a hurry if the player has control of the ball, or they are heavily contesting a player on the other team. The fastest soccer players can reach up to 22mph (35kph). What a lot of people do not realize is that this action does not take place as often as people might think.
Studies show that players, on average, only have control of the ball a few minutes a match. That makes sense, since there are 20 field players and two goalies on the field almost always. It all equates to some very intense moments, but not the type of max speed athletes in other sports might have to use. A look at basketball, as one example, would indicate that there is a lot more sprinting during the game for players, even though they do not cover the same amount of distance.
The best soccer players in the world are as fast as any non-track and field athletes out there. Not only are they fast, but they also have quick movements that can evade defenders.
There is a reason why so many teams practice not only with long-distance conditioning, but sprints as well. Beating an opponent to the ball is a huge skill in soccer, and so is having the quickness necessary to play on either side. Strikers and midfielders seem to be the fastest players on the field, with defenders being just a little behind. Goalies do not need to have top-end speed like field players, but it doesn’t hurt to have it either.
Are There Tactics To Reduce Mileage On Players?
To play soccer at a high-level and compete, there needs to be a good amount of hustle the entire time. With all that being said, there are some ways to get some strategic breaks for certain players and hide them as much as possible.
Formations can help hide certain players, especially if they are midfielders running around a lot. As a player ages, it might make more sense to transition them into a different position, or to switch up the entire formation and have them not cover as much ground.
Another solution is to strategically use subs for guys who run around the most. Some teams like to use their subs on strikers to inject some energy, or defenders to help preserve a lead. Using substitutes for midfielders can also help, and maximizing the number of substitutions works as well.
Finally, there are ways to eat the clock if a team has a lead. An older team that jumps out to an early lead might look at this as an excellent tactic to try and save some energy. They can start to wear down the opposition by making them chase the ball around, which works in their favor.
Examining Each Position
It has been discussed a little already, but different positions should expect different types of running during a match. It all comes down to responsibility on the field, and managers putting together a squad pay attention to these things when filling out lineups.
It is surprising to no one that goalies cover the least amount of distance in a soccer match, but their average distance might be shocking to some. They can end up running about two or three miles in a contest, depending on how much action they receive.
Their responsibility is to obviously guard the goal, but they are stretched out quite a bit during attacks. They also move around a lot more than people think, even when the ball is on the other side of the pitch. Their job is to direct the team and be in position for a counterattack.
A lot of the movement is walking, but they need to use a lot of energy when it comes their time to be part of the action. Goalies tend to be larger athletes as well, so the shorter mileage still takes a toll on them.
Defenders are in charge of moving around quite a bit, just not as much as other field players. Part of the reason is that they have a more distinct part of the field to cover. Central defenders do not have to run as much as wing defenders, which is why most teams put their defenders with the best stamina out wide.
However, central defenders usually end up having to sprint more, since they are covering the faster strikers going up against them. Some defenders can end up covering the average distance, while others will fall just short.
Midfielders cover the most distance in a match, and it makes sense since they have the most field to cover in most formats. There are some formats where players will be all over the field, and that starts to add up pretty quickly.
Sprinting requirements are certainly there, but they do not have as commanding of a lead on the rest of the positions.
If a team is to have a player that goes over 10 miles per a single contest, a midfielder is most likely that position. They are usually exhausted after games, and after considering the distance, it is easy to see why.
Strikers might not accumulate as much mileage as other positions, but they need to be quick and capable of sprinting at high speeds. When they are on the attack, they have some of the most intense movements on the field.
While quickness and top speed is essential, they also need to be able to do all of this under a certain level of control. They may only get limited opportunities in a match, but it always matters.
A Final Look At Soccer Mileage
Most of the numbers in this article are estimates, and even individual players will have pretty big ranges when looking at their total mileage. A lot of it depends on the team they are playing, as well as how the game goes early on.
Even the players running around the most are not going to be playing at a top speed pace for that long, so the mileage is a bit deceiving. It is more of a combination of different speeds for 90 minutes, which can include some walking and standing at times.