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Soccer Performance Metrics

In today’s information age and the availability of “Big Data” enabled by camera and on-body sensors, more data than ever are available to soccer coaches. Each player in each game and each practice can be measured and data can be aggregated to the team level. To illustrate: distance run in a game can be measured for each player and team distance can be aggregated by adding all of the players’ distances.

There are software packages that manage all the data for coaches and generate any number of analyses and reports. As a trained soccer coach and professional engineer I understand that it is not the amount of data you get, but the appropriateness of data. The purpose of data is to identify areas for improvement and to enable the development and implementation of improvement plans. A wise person once said: “Tell me how I’m measured and I’ll tell you how I will behave”.

I have sifted through a lot of the metrics collected all over the world, some of which are reported during live broadcasts on TV. The scope of this review is game performance and improvement. This therefore excludes medical, physiological and any other individual or team health data. The idea is that if you have data that relate to your team’s performance, then you can identify what areas need to be improved and structure your soccer practices accordingly.

Possession %

This measures the amount of time a team controls the ball as a % of game time. Usually camera systems track the seconds each team is in control of the ball. Analysis has proven that possession % does not correlate to winning games. This metric is therefore only useful if your game philosophy and strategy is to dominate possession. Then you should establish a target of possession % (say > 65% +) and practice how to play a possession game.

Scoring Chances & Shots Taken

Shots taken is what you see on TV and it is a simple measure. Any shot from anywhere deemed to be in the direction of the goal counts as a shot taken, regardless of whether or not it actually hits the target. So a shot going up into the rafters counts as a shot taken. There is very little subjectivity. The metric is to count the number of shots taken by the team during a game.

Scoring chances is more subjective, but in my opinion more relevant. A scoring chance is defined as a play that offered a good chance of scoring a goal, even if the final shot isn’t taken. The metric is to count the number of scoring chances your team generates in a game.

To illustrate the difference between these two measurements:

A shot taken from 30 m out that goes 5 m wide of the net is counted as a “shot taken”, but wouldn’t qualify as a scoring chance.

A cross into the box to an open player 5 m in front of goal is a scoring chance, even if the player slips and never gets their foot on the ball – no shot is taken.

Shots on Goal

This metric goes with both of the previous metrics Рscoring chances and shots taken. You count the number of shots on goal. A useful statistic would be to calculate the % shots on goal as a percentage of shots taken AND as a percentage of scoring chances. A low % of shots on goal  indicates that shots taken need accuracy improvement or scoring chances need finishing improvement (determination, timing, etc.).

Ultimately goals scored as a % of shots taken or scoring chances generated gives you an idea of the efficiency and effectiveness of your team’s attacking plays.

Getting By Opposing Players

This is a more recent metric. There are two ways to get by an opposing player – a 1 v.1 move or a pass. Furthermore it is of significance which players you get by, any player or defenders. So the metrics are, for each player and aggregated to team total for a game (or practice drill)

  • getting by any opponent in a 1 v. 1
  • getting by an opposing defender in a 1 v. 1
  • getting by any opponent with a completed pass
  • getting by a defender with a completed pass
  • receiving a completed pass past any opposing player
  • receiving a completed pass past a defender

You can also analyze these results by position and set some goals for your team. For example if you encourage your wingers taking on defenders 1 v. 1 to generate a cross and scoring chance, then measure the number of successful and failed 1 v. 1 moves by your wingers. By wingers I don’t mean only the designated wide players in your formation, but anyone who happens to be in the attacking third on the wing, such as an overlapping defender. You can count these for each player and later aggregate the numbers for individuals, positions (defenders, central midfielders, etc.), and the team. You can further accumulate the data for each game and the sum of games played to date.


There are many more metrics but if you consider those presented, you could easily formulate a vision/strategy for your team. For example:

“We are a fast attacking (not possession) team generating at least 10 scoring changes per game and scoring at on at least 20% of scoring chances. We generate these scoring chances through two touch soccer, quick and accurate passing past opponents, with a final cross or a vertical pass into the penalty box.

Then pick the metrics that are meaningful to the strategy, correlate the data to goals scored, wins, points and formulate improvement plans.

I should mention that I have illustrated offensive metrics. Defensive metrics for your team are the exact opposite. Track the same metrics for the opposing team.

Coach Tom

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