The United States Soccer Federation (US Soccer) announced STATSports as its official on-field performance monitoring device, in an effort to improve data collection and player development.
At a glance, the partnership isn’t all that groundbreaking. In addition to having previously worked with US Soccer, STATSports also has partnerships with top international soccer federations including Belgium, Brazil, England, and Germany and top teams in the English Premier League.
Yet, if you take a closer look, it’s rather remarkable.
The deal, which is the world’s largest GPS partnership, will provide 6,500 APEX GPS tracking devices to players across U.S. Men’s, Women’s, Youth, Paralympic, Futsal and Beach National Teams, Development Academy clubs, and the NWSL. 6,000 of these will be reserved exclusively for the development academies and provided free of charge. This will allow the federation to track and monitor performance data while providing more information to help coaches and performance directors understand the development process at all levels and ages.
“The hope is long-term, with a partnership between US Soccer and the development academies, that we can use this dataset to track, monitor, and benchmark how players physically develop and [identify] the key attributes within the youth development process and at the pro level across the whole system,” says James Bunce, the director of high performance at US Soccer.
Wearables are already very ingrained in soccer culture and US Soccer athletes have been wearing them while playing for many years. Until today, though, this process wasn’t streamlined and data was collected from two separate companies – STATSports and Catapult Sports, another leading company in the GPS tracking space.
When it came time to formulate an official partnership, though, STATSports stood out.
“It’s a partner that is huge in world sport. They have a lot of the share of the market throughout sport both in the US and in Europe. We felt they offered the best unit and reliability and accuracy,” says Bunce.
Through this partnership, US Soccer will be able to monitor players as they move up through the development system, tracking them at a young age to better customize training programs and help avoid injury.
The APEX GPS devices pick up every type of movement a player does both in training and in games. It can track total distance, the number of meters run per minute, and determine speed. It also has an accelerometer built into it to determine a player’s rate of acceleration and deceleration.
In today’s world, having this type of information is not only essential for coaches, but it’s increasingly important to players.
“They want to take ownership of their development, they want to see how they performed in matches and training. It’s very normal that players, after training and after matches, want to know how they performed,” explains Bunce.
The large scope of this partnership and the number of units provided to US Soccer’s athletes will better equip them to do that.
There are endless possibilities in the sports technology space. At the moment, Bunce sees the GPS as “the current gold standard” for sports performance, but stresses that US Soccer is “always looking at the next big project and technology.”
Teams and Leagues are starting to look outside the physical fitness space and into mental fitness, demonstrated by the NBA’s recent partnership with the meditation app Headspace. US Soccer has an eye on the space as well and is exploring ways to integrate mind training into its player development.
For now, though, it will focus on rolling out its partnership with STATSports.
“The real exciting thing is the data we can collect of the 6,500 and that’s the mind-blowing datasets that we’re excited to work with the clubs on,” says Bunce.