|High intensity running in International vs. Domestic female soccer
Match analysis of professional soccer players, male and female, has become an important indicator of overall performance. High-intensity running, sprinting and total distance covered are values that are commonly studied and compared between international and domestic players. It has been a consensus amongst various researchers that in women’s soccer, international players perform at higher intensities than players playing in domestic leagues. These elite female athletes experience more high-intensity running and sprints when compared to players playing in domestic leagues.
The professional league in the United States, National Women's Soccer League, looked at many of its women’s players during regular season games. They determined that overall sprint durations lasted for approximately 2.3 seconds overall positions (2.3s for forwards, 2.3 for midfielders, and 2.2 for defenders) (Vescovi, 2012).
However, when this data was compared to data taken from Australian international players, the United States league players were found to have performed slightly less running. Australian elite female players had mean sprint times of 2.5s (forwards), 2.3s (midfielders) and defenders for 2.4 seconds (defenders) (Gabbett & Mulvey, 2008).
During an entire match, attackers averaged a total sprinting distance of 657m and midfielders of 447m in the US domestic league (Vescovi, 2012). These numbers were almost doubled in the Australian athletes who covered on average 1184m for attackers, 981 for midfielders and 820m for defenders (Gabbett & Mulvey, 2008).
Another study comparing Swedish and Danish domestic league players to National Team players confirmed the findings of Vescovi and Gabbett/Mulvey. This study found that international players travelled a total distance of 9.9km during the whole game compared to 9.7km for domestic players (Andersson, Heiner-Moller, Krustrup, Mohr, 2010).
These findings are congruent with findings from the previous study mentioned where international athletes covered 9968m during their games opposed to the 9707 m covered by domestic athletes on average over all positions (Gabbett & Mulvey, 2008).
Although these numbers are very similar, it was determined that of those total distances travelled by international and domestic players, 256m and 221m respectively were covered by sprinting (Andersson et al., 2010). This particular study also compared the distances covered by these athletes travelling at high-intensities. These numbers were significantly different as international players covered 1.53km and domestic only covered 1.33 km (Andersson et al., 2010).
It is evident through comparison that international players work harder on average during their matches than domestic players. However, there are other factors that need to be acknowledged when comparing these two groups.
The mental aspect of the game is an important factor when looking at an athletes’ drive to compete as well as willingness to win. It can be assumed that athletes who are competing in an international game (such as a World Cup Qualifying match or UEFA Champions League match) are going to push themselves harder as there is more on the line.
Nonetheless, it is evident that fitness is an extremely valuable component of soccer in both international and domestic league play. Those who strive for excellence in the game must have a combination of both fitness and skill on and off the ball if they wish to make an impression in this ever growing sport.
Andersson, H. A., Randers, M. B., Heiner-Moller, A., Krustrup, P., & Mohr, M. (2010). Elite female soccer players perform more high-intensity running when playing in international games compared with domestic league games. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(4), 912-919. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181d09f21
Gabbett, T. J., & Mulvey, M. J. (2008). Time-motion analysis of small-sided training games and competition in elite women soccer players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 22(2), 543-552. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181635597
Vescovi, J. D. (2012). Sprint profile of professional female soccer players during competitive matches: Female Athletes in Motion (FAiM) study. Journal of Sports Sciences, 30(12), 1259-1265. doi:10.1080/02640414.2012.701760
Stephanie Cimino is an intern with SoccerFitness. Soccer Fitness Inc., is a soccer-specific strength and conditioning company located in Toronto. For more information about Soccer Fitness, please visit www.soccerfitness.ca.