January 28, 2020

MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference’s Sports Stories Briefing

How we see it…views & opinions from MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference

The Growing Field of Soccer Analytics
Soccer is a very mature sport: the game has been around for more than a century. As such, innovations are difficult to come by. This is not to say that the sport is completely static. Michels, Cruyff, Sacchi and more recently Guardiola have all contributed in radically rethinking how soccer is played from both a structural and tactical perspective. Speaking about the future of soccer at a conference in 2012, former Inter Milan and Manchester City coach Roberto Mancini said that the next revolution in soccer will be physical rather than purely tactical. He was half right: players are indeed more fit today than they were twenty years ago and it has allowed more diversified pressing schemes. The next soccer revolution will involve pushing the envelope with analytics.

The soccer analytics revolution has already started. FB Reference, Statsbomb and FootyStats have popularized metrics such as expected goals and expected assists as well as put an emphasis on accuracy and efficiency. Soccer arguments are decidedly becoming more sophisticated. Leading sports scientist Simon Brundish made an analytical argument about Messi being the best player in the game that went viral online. In 2018, Javier Hernandez and Luke Bornn published a paper at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference on how soccer players create space on the pitch. Last year OptaPro presented a panel on the future of soccer and the state of soccer analytics. Soccer analytics is here to stay.

What we’re Reading & Podcasting?

1 – The XFL is making its official comeback next month. The league has announced a series of rule changes to add more variability and increase the pace of play. ESPN’s Kevin Seifert details those changes that hopefully will inspire innovations in both the college game and the National Football League.

2 – The Ringer’s Robert Mays outlines 11 important storylines and previews next week’s Super Bowl matchup between the Niners and the Chiefs.

3 – The MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference podcast is the home of the conference’s panels on the most cutting edge sports analytics topics. Last year, Michael Lewis and Mike Leach had a deep dive conversation on coaching, innovation and leadership.