World Cup is a Big Score for Big Data


Always popular internationally, the United States is finally catching soccer fever. Last year’s Men’s World Cup “Sweet 16” performance and this year’s Women’s World Cup victory have shattered both attendance numbers and TV ratings for Americans. While there is certainly more media exposure than ever before, soccer is also using big data to optimize many aspects of the growing game. Leaders of soccer clubs, leagues, and federations, are using big data to improve game preparation, in-game strategy, and enhancement of the fan experience.

Long seen as far behind football, baseball, and basketball in the American sports pecking order, the performances of both the men’s and women’s teams in the most recent World Cups drew much higher ratings than those of years prior. Last Sunday’s Women’s World Cup victory over Japan earned the highest television rating for any soccer game in American history. If this year is any indication, future World Cups will have even higher ratings.

Many people would quickly assume that media exposure is the single catalyst for soccer’s rise in popularity. However, by leveraging technology and data, the sport has been improving its game–and that’s becoming a game changer for coaches, fans, and players alike.

Today, soccer clubs are using data gathered during practice, weightlifting, and scouting reports to improve game preparation, in-game strategy and even the fan experience. Now able to compile more information than ever, the data being collected is allowing them to create optimal scouting reports, individual player performance plans, game adjustments, and bring live stats to the fans.

The use of cloud platforms allows for the quick analysis of this data to make changes in real time. Between the cloud platforms and various devices, coaches, data analysts, and trainers can monitor players’ progress not only tactically, but physically, and healthwise as well. This data is beneficial for injury prevention, rehab assessments, training goals, food logs, and tracking vitals. Analyzing the data in the days leading up to the matches can put both coaches and players at an advantage–coaches can now implement optimal strategies, and players will have the information necessary to perform at their peak in the form of individual performance plans.  Aside from the in-game personnel, fans stand to benefit from big data in soccer as well. Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City FC, has a digital insights “wall” that will show various data metrics including analysis and insights to bring the fans closer to the game.

While soccer has seen a tremendous spike in interest in recent years, the use of data and analytics has only accelerated that process. The recent rise in data measurement, analytics and cloud-based technologies are now giving coaches, players, and fans an unprecedented experience. Today’s uses for big data are just the cornerstone for bigger developments in the future. Look for live player tracking–vitals, performance, and more–to be the next step on the pitch.