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Physical Demands of Women's Soccer Matches: A Perspective Across the Developmental Spectrum

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Female soccer players are exposed to specific physical demands during matches, which vary according to the standard of play. Existing studies have largely focused on quantifying the distances covered for professional and international level players. This approach is limited in scope regarding the broader aspects around physical demands and is detached from development pathway models. An understanding of the demands across all standards will provide valuable insights about appropriate player development and help ensure physical readiness for the demands of the sport. The aim of this perspective paper is to describe the physical demands experienced during women's soccer matches across the developmental spectrum. A combination of evidence from the literature and data from the author's research (JDV) is presented. Specifically highlighted are the trends for locomotor distances, acceleration and deceleration frequency, and metabolic power metrics for youth (≤U17), college (NCAA/U20), professional (domestic) and international standards of women's soccer. In addition, the changes in match demands between levels of play are used to help illustrate gaps that must be overcome in order to successfully achieve physical readiness to compete at higher levels. The evidence demonstrates the importance of training appropriate attributes to prepare female soccer players who are striving to play at progressively higher standards.
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PERSPECTIVE
published: 16 April 2021
doi: 10.3389/fspor.2021.634696
Frontiers in Sports and Active Living | www.frontiersin.org 1April 2021 | Volume 3 | Article 634696
Edited by:
Clare Minahan,
Griffith University, Australia
Reviewed by:
Cosme Franklim Buzzachera,
University of Pavia, Italy
Vanessa Martinez Lagunas,
University of Manitoba, Canada
*Correspondence:
Jason D. Vescovi
VescoviJ@aol.com
Specialty section:
This article was submitted to
Elite Sports and Performance
Enhancement,
a section of the journal
Frontiers in Sports and Active Living
Received: 28 November 2020
Accepted: 22 March 2021
Published: 16 April 2021
Citation:
Vescovi JD, Fernandes E and Klas A
(2021) Physical Demands of Women’s
Soccer Matches: A Perspective
Across the Developmental Spectrum.
Front. Sports Act. Living 3:634696.
doi: 10.3389/fspor.2021.634696
Physical Demands of Women’s
Soccer Matches: A Perspective
Across the Developmental Spectrum
Jason D. Vescovi 1,2
*, Elton Fernandes 1,2 and Alexander Klas 1,2
1Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada, 2Graduate School of Exercise
Science, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Female soccer players are exposed to specific physical demands during matches,
which vary according to the standard of play. Existing studies have largely focused on
quantifying the distances covered for professional and international level players. This
approach is limited in scope regarding the broader aspects around physical demands
and is detached from development pathway models. An understanding of the demands
across all standards will provide valuable insights about appropriate player development
and help ensure physical readiness for the demands of the sport. The aim of this
perspective paper is to describe the physical demands experienced during women’s
soccer matches across the developmental spectrum. A combination of evidence from the
literature and data from the author’s research (JDV) is presented. Specifically highlighted
are the trends for locomotor distances, acceleration and deceleration frequency, and
metabolic power metrics for youth (U17), college (NCAA/U20), professional (domestic)
and international standards of women’s soccer. In addition, the changes in match
demands between levels of play are used to help illustrate gaps that must be overcome
in order to successfully achieve physical readiness to compete at higher levels. The
evidence demonstrates the importance of training appropriate attributes to prepare
female soccer players who are striving to play at progressively higher standards.
Keywords: women’s soccer, match demands, running distance, metabolic power, acceleration
INTRODUCTION
Female soccer players are exposed to specific physical demands during matches, which vary
according to the level/standard of play. To date, researchers and sport scientists have generally
focused on the highest-level teams (i.e., elite) in order to develop strategies aimed at optimizing the
physical readiness of these players and ultimately winning League titles, World Championships, or
Olympic medals. Solely focusing match analysis at this level certainly has benefits for broadening
our knowledge of the demands experienced by the best players (and teams), but is simultaneously
disconnected from player development models, where gaps in technical, tactical, and fitness
capabilities are routinely evaluated. Therefore, a comprehensive understanding of the physical
demands of women’s soccer matches across a wider range of standards is an essential element for
enhancing player development pathways. There has been increased attention at some lower levels
(i.e., U21, college), but there is still a paucity of research available describing the physical demands
of youth matches.
Vescovi et al. Demands of Women’s Soccer Matches
Despite the recent interest and popularity in describing the
physical demands of women’s soccer matches, there are two
substantial challenges to overcome for organizations, coaches,
and sport science practitioners when examining published
studies. First, outcomes between (i.e., video, GPS) and within
(e.g., GPS 1, 5, and 10 Hz) systems are not interchangeable
(Buchheit and Simpson, 2017), so some latitude is warranted
when attempting to compare studies. Second, there is currently
no consensus regarding the thresholds used for establishing
discrete bands for key performance indicators (e.g., locomotor
distances) (Bradley and Vescovi, 2015; Park et al., 2019). As
a result, it is difficult to make direct comparisons within the
published literature and subsequently create a cohesive view
across the entire developmental spectrum for match demands.
Recognizing these limitations, the aim of the current perspective
paper is to describe match demands of women’s soccer across
the developmental spectrum in two ways. First, by presenting
and comparing (when possible) published studies and second, by
including data from the author (JDV) that uniquely spans youth,
college, professional, and international women’s soccer matches.
The benefit of including these data is that they were collected
using identical technology (5 Hz GPS) and applied the same
thresholds for all reported variables–thus, direct comparisons can
be made across all standards of play within this dataset.
METHODS
A literature search of Pubmed and Google Scholar was conducted
using a combination of the following terms: women’s soccer,
match demands, running distance, metabolic power, acceleration,
deceleration, youth soccer, college soccer, professional soccer,
elite soccer, and international soccer. Additionally, the references
of identified studies were searched for other citations not found in
the electronic search. Both studies and reports were included that
described the locomotor distances, acceleration and deceleration
profiles, and/or metabolic power metrics for women’s soccer
matches at any standard of play. Despite the limitations of
comparing various data collection technologies, papers were
selected regardless of the methodology used to quantify match
demands (i.e., video, GPS, etc.). To simplify and help facilitate
comparisons of locomotor metrics between published studies, we
focused on total distance, movement rate (distance per minute),
and high-intensity distances (inclusive of sprinting) since the
latter has been identified as a key indicator that differentiates
between levels of play in women’s soccer (Mohr et al., 2008;
Andersson et al., 2010). We recognize that positional differences
in physical demands exist; however, an examination of this
component was beyond the scope of the current perspective.
Data from the author’s (JDV) previous research is included,
which contains locomotor distance, acceleration and deceleration
frequencies, and metabolic power metrics. These particular data
are presented for descriptive purposes only and do not represent
an experimental study; therefore, statistical analyses were not
applied. Players competed across four standards: youth (U15
to U17), college, professional (PRO), and elite international
(INT). All matches were played on regulation sized soccer
fields with referees. Youth players (U15 =21, player-matches
=21; U16 =69, player-matches =85; U17 =32, player-
matches =32) were involved in a high-level tournaments or
talent identification camps with varying match durations (35–
45 min halves) depending on the specific age-group. Matches
at the other three standards had 45 min halves. College players
(n=51, player-matches =71) competed in regular season
NCAA Division I matches. Professional players (n=83, player-
matches =205) competed in regular season (domestic) matches
for a professional league. In addition to domestic players, each
team included several international players from their respective
national teams. Elite international players (n=12, player-
matches =39) were from a top ranked FIFA women’s national
team and competed in “friendly” matches against other ranked
FIFA women’s national teams.
Players wore a GPS unit (SPI Pro 5-Hz, GPSports, Canberra,
Australia) that is valid and reliable for measuring sprint distance
and speed (Petersen et al., 2009; Waldron et al., 2011). Between 8
and 12 satellites were available for signal transmission (Jennings
et al., 2010). Horizontal-dilution-of-precision values >4 were
automatically removed by the Team AMS software, which is
below the maximum value (50) reported to result in inaccurate
outcomes (Witte and Wilson, 2004). A digital watch that received
satellite time identified the start and end of each half, as
signaled by the referee’s whistle. Data were extracted using the
manufacturer software (GPSports, Team AMS R1 2015.10J) for
analysis. The outcomes are presented in the current paper using
the following thresholds for locomotor distance (Bradley and
Vescovi, 2015), metabolic power (Osgnach et al., 2010), and
acceleration/deceleration (manufacturer default setting):
- Locomotor distance: 6.0 kph (Zone 1), 6.1–8.0 kph (Zone 2),
8.1–12.0 kph (Zone 3), 12.1–16.0 kph (Zone 4), 16.1–20.0 kph
(Zone 5), and >20.0 kph (Zone 6)
- Metabolic power: 10.0 W/kg (Zone 1), 10.1–20.0 W/kg
(Zone 2), 20.1–35.0 W/kg (Zone 3), 35.1–55.0 W/kg (Zone 4),
and >55 W/kg (Zone 5)
- Acceleration and deceleration: 1.80–3.60 m/s2(Zone 1), 3.61–
5.40 m/s2(Zone 2), and 5.41–7.20 m/s2(Zone 3)
LOCOMOTOR DEMANDS
Locomotor demands are the most popular metrics in soccer
and have been widely reported for several decades. Some of the
pioneering work in this space included manually coding video
of recorded games (Bangsbo et al., 1991), whereas today there
are automated video systems permanently installed in stadiums
as well as GPS technology that afford teams a mobile option
that can be used almost anywhere. These technological advances
have enabled the continued expansion of data collection, which
ultimately allow practitioners to capture data more easily and
report the distances covered within various velocity bands.
Youth
To date, there are five studies describe the demands of female
youth soccer matches (Barbero-Alvarez et al., 2008; Vescovi,
Frontiers in Sports and Active Living | www.frontiersin.org 2April 2021 | Volume 3 | Article 634696
Vescovi et al. Demands of Women’s Soccer Matches
2014; Orntoft et al., 2016; Ramos et al., 2019; Harkness-
Armstrong et al., 2020). The youngest age groups to be reported
is U11-U12; however, the modified structure (see Table 1) makes
direct comparisons to the literature impossible (Barbero-Alvarez
et al., 2008; Orntoft et al., 2016). Still, the 20 and 50-min games
resulted in 1,600 and 3,963 m of total distance, respectively, and
a corresponding movement rate of about 80 m/min (Barbero-
Alvarez et al., 2008; Orntoft et al., 2016), which is expectedly
lower than movement rates for older age groups. A study
during a youth national championship tournament (domestic)
reported the demands of U15 to U17 players competing in typical
match configurations (11v11 for 80–90 min) (Vescovi, 2014).
The U15 players covered 6,961, 458, and 76 m for total, high-
intensity (15.6–20.0 kph) and sprinting (>20 kph) distances,
respectively, which were lower than the distances reported for
U16 (8,024, 611, 185 m) and U17 (8,558, 658, and 235 m) age-
group matches. These age-group differences persisted even after
accounting for match duration with lower movement rates for
U15 (86 m/min) compared to U16 and U17 (93–95 m/min)
players. Talent pathway league matches for U14 and U16 teams
showed average total distances of 7,148 and 7,679 m, respectively,
with 217 and 247 m of high-intensity running (>19.0 kph)
(Harkness-Armstrong et al., 2020). During the women’s U17
South American championships (international), the players for
Brazil covered 8,270, 485, and 191 m for total, high-intensity
(15.6–20 kph), and sprint distances (>20 kph), respectively
(Ramos et al., 2019). In general, there seems to be comparable
total distances and movement rates for the same age groups, but
the two studies using the same velocity thresholds showed high-
intensity distances were about 24% lower during the international
event (676 m) (Ramos et al., 2019) than the domestic event
(893 m) (Vescovi, 2014). This difference could be attributable to
the GPS technology used (5 vs. 10 Hz), environmental conditions,
as well as game tactics (e.g., formation, style of play, etc.). Overall,
it seems progressively greater movement rates occur across age-
group youth soccer matches and is likely a reflection of improved
physical capacities of players (Mujika et al., 2009) while holding
match contextual factors constant.
College
Research examining the demands of women’s college soccer
matches has gained attention during the past few years. An
important distinction to note about NCAA matches is that
they do not follow international standards for substitutions.
So, researchers tend to either include players that competed in
full matches (which limits the sample size) or “create” 90-min
matches from multiple players (which tends to alter movement
rates). This is evident from a study comparing Division I
regular season and post-season matches, which showed a 10%
increase in total distance with a corresponding 6.5% decrease in
movement rate (Wells et al., 2015). Nevertheless, total distances
reported for NCAA Division I (9,000–9,900 m) (McCormack
et al., 2014; Vescovi and Favero, 2014; Sausaman et al., 2019),
Division II (10,000) (Gentles et al., 2018), Division III (9,600–
9,800 m) (Jagim et al., 2020) as well as Canadian University
matches (8,800–9,600 m) (Turczyn, 2018) are fairly similar,
with subsequent movement rates of 100–110 m/min. Despite
slightly different velocity thresholds used to define high-intensity
running, it seems that when the velocity band spans only 3–4
kph the amount of distance covered is within a range of 600–
800 m (Vescovi and Favero, 2014; Wells et al., 2015; Ramos
et al., 2017; Turczyn, 2018; Jagim et al., 2020) with a notable
exception reaching 1,000 m (Sausaman et al., 2019). For sprint
distances, increasing the lower limit velocity threshold from 18 to
19 kph (280–420 m) (Alexander, 2014; Sausaman et al., 2019;
Jagim et al., 2020; McFadden et al., 2020) to 20 kph (200–
250 m) (Vescovi and Favero, 2014; Ramos et al., 2017) and 22
kph (<100 m) (Wells et al., 2015) has the expected reduction of
reported distances.
Investigators have also examined the impact of contextual
factors (e.g., altitude, match frequency, etc.) on locomotor
demands in college matches. Moderate altitude (1,839 m) had
a negative effect on total (121 vs. 106 m/min) and high-
intensity (28 vs. 25 m/min) movement rates (Bohner et al., 2015),
suggestive that hypoxic conditions adversely impacted locomotor
activity. When college soccer matches end in a draw, the teams
play two 10-min extra-time periods. The additional 20 min
result in a 22–23% increase in total distances for extra-time
matches compared with 90-min matches (Williams et al., 2019).
Surprisingly, the total distances covered during extra-time were
equivalent (1,100 m) between players who competed in the
entire match or only a portion of the match. The NCAA soccer
match schedule can be considered congested, where multiple
games are oftentimes played with minimal days off in between.
One study demonstrated that regular Friday and Sunday matches
throughout the season resulted in lower total (120 vs. 106 m/min)
and high-intensity (25 vs. 22 m/min) movement rates during
the second game (McCormack et al., 2015). Similarly, Canadian
women’s soccer matches showed a 13% reduction in high-
intensity (16–20 kph) and sprint (>20 kph) distance when
games were on back-to-back days (Turczyn, 2018). Interestingly,
there was no impact of poor sleep on match demands in these
players (Turczyn, 2018). In contrast to the impact of match
schedule, no differences were observed for high-speed or sprint
distances between NCAA Division I regular-season and playoff
matches (Wells et al., 2015), suggestive that players were able
to continue playing with similar intensity throughout an entire
season. Overall, these studies highlight how contextual factors
might impact game demands for female college soccer players
and the need to monitor these metrics in order to manage the
physical demands players experience during the season.
Professional and International
There is substantially more evidence describing the locomotor
demands of elite female soccer with a fairly even distribution
between professional (domestic) (Krustrup et al., 2005; Mohr
et al., 2008; Andersson et al., 2010; Bradley et al., 2014;
Martínez-Lagunas et al., 2016; Datson et al., 2017; Mara et al.,
2017b; Nakamura et al., 2017; DeWitt et al., 2018; Vescovi and
Falenchuk, 2019; Julian et al., 2020; Scott et al., 2020a; Moraleda
et al., 2021; Principe et al., 2021) and international matches
(Mohr et al., 2008; Andersson et al., 2010; Ritschard and Tschopp,
2012; Hewitt et al., 2014; Martínez-Lagunas and Scott, 2016;
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Vescovi et al. Demands of Women’s Soccer Matches
TABLE 1 | Velocity thresholds and distances for high-intensity running and sprinting across standards.
High-intensity Sprint
References Competition standard Method Velocity (kph) Distance (m) Velocity (kph) Distance (m)
Youth
Barbero-Alvarez et al. (2008) U12 (7v7, 50 min game) GPS (1 Hz) 13.1–18.0 228 >18.0 21
Harkness-Armstrong et al.
(2020)
U14 (35 min half) GPS (10 Hz) >19.0 1,530 >22.5 29
U16 (40 min half) 1,695 53
Orntoft et al. (2016) U11 (7v7 & 8v8, 20 min
game)
GPS (5 Hz) 16.0–20.0 34–63 >20.0 0
Ramos et al. (2019)* U17 International GPS (10 Hz) 15.6–20.0 485 >20.0 178
Vescovi (2014) U15 (40 min half) GPS (5 Hz) 15.6–20.0 458 >20.0 76
U16 (40 min half) 611 185
U17 (45 min half) 658 235
College
Alexander (2014)* Division I GPS (10 Hz) 15.1–18.0 527 >18.0 362
Gentles et al. (2018) Division II GPS (5 Hz) 15.1–25.0 1,140 >25.0 80
Jagim et al. (2020) Division III GPS (10 Hz) 15.0–19.0 739 >19.0 282
McCormack et al. (2015) Division I GPS ( 10 Hz) 13.0–22.0 2,283 >22.0 NR
McCormack et al. (2014) Division I GPS ( 10 Hz) 13.0–22.0 1,586 >22.0 NR
McFadden et al. (2020) Division I GPS (10 Hz) 15.0–19.0 800 >19.0 400
Ramos et al. (2019)*U20 International GPS (10 Hz ) 15.6–20.0 660 >20.0 202
Sausaman et al. (2019) Division I GPS (10 Hz) 15.0–18.0 1 ,014 >18.0 428
Strauss et al. (2019) University GPS (10 Hz) >15.5 336
Turczyn (2018) University GPS (15 Hz) 16.0–19.9 680 >20.0 250
Vescovi and Favero (2014)* Division I GPS (5 Hz) 15.5–20.0 776 >20.0 250
Wells et al. (2015) Division I-Reg season GPS (10 Hz) 16.0–22.0 557 >22.0 86
Division I-Post season 603 85
Professional and elite
Andersson et al. (2010) Professional Video-S 15.0–18.0 1,330 18.0–25.0 221
Elite International 1,530 256
Bradley et al. (2014) Professional Video-M (25 Hz) 12.0–18.0 2,374 >18.0 777
Bradley and Scott (2020) Elite Inter national (2015) Video-M (20 Hz) 13.0–23.0 2,493 >23.0 140
Elite International (2019) Video-M (20 Hz) 2,563 181
Datson et al. (2017) Professional Video-M 19.8–25.1 608 >25.1 168
DeWitt et al. (2018) Professional GPS (10 Hz) >17.8 570 >22.7 NR
Hewitt et al. (2014) Elite International GPS (5 Hz) 12.0–19.0 2,407 >19.0 338
Julian et al. (2020) Professional (1st/2nd Div) GPS (5 Hz) 16.7–19.9 567 >19.9 342
Krustrup et al. (2005) Professional Video-S 15.0–18.0 1,310 18.0–25.0 160
Mara et al. (2017b) Professional Video-M (25 Hz) 12.2–19.0 2,452 >19.0 615
Martínez-Lagunas and Scott
(2016)
Elite International (2011) Video-M (25 Hz) 16.0–20.0 846 >20.0 485
Elite International (2015) Video-M (20 Hz) 868 472
Martínez-Lagunas et al. (2016) Professional (2nd Div) GPS (5 Hz) 16.0–20.0 671 >20.0 290
Professional (4th Div) 515 162
Meylan et al. (2017) Elite International GPS (10 Hz) 16.5–20.0 542 >20.0 250
Mohr et al. (2008) Professional Video-S 15.0–18.0 1,300 18.0–25.0 380
Elite International 1,680 460
(Continued)
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Vescovi et al. Demands of Women’s Soccer Matches
TABLE 1 | Continued
High-intensity Sprint
References Competition standard Method Velocity (kph) Distance (m) Velocity (kph) Distance (m)
Moraleda et al. (2021) Professional GPS (5 Hz) >15.0 1,108
Nakamura et al. (2017) Professional GPS (5 Hz) NR >20.0 284
Principe et al. (2021) Professional GPS (10 Hz) 16.0–20.0 599 >20.0 303
Ramos et al. (2017) Elite International GPS (10 Hz) 15.6–20.0 744 >20.0 304
Ritschard and Tschopp (2012)
Elite International (2011)
Video-M (25 Hz) 18.1–21.0 395 >21.0 290
Scott et al. (2020a)* Professional (domestic) GPS (10 Hz) 12.5–22.5 2,746 >22.5 119
Professional (internat) 2,834 150
Scott et al. (2020b) Professional GPS (10 Hz) 12.5–22.5 2,799 >22.5 122
Trewin et al. (2018a) Elite International GPS (10 Hz) >16.5 873 >20.0 NR
Trewin et al. (2018b) Elite International GPS (10 Hz) >16.5 855 >20.0 NR
Vescovi and Falenchuk (2019) Professional GPS (5 Hz) 16.1–20.0 756 >20.0 351
*weighted average across positions using mean values; same sample used in 2019 paper; NR, not reported.
Video-S (single camera); Video-M (multi-camera).
Trewin et al., 2018a,b;Ramos et al., 2019; Bradley and Scott, 2020;
Scott et al., 2020a,b).
The average total distances reported among professional
(8,200–11,000 m) and international (9,300–11,000 m) level
matches are generally similar. The majority of studies have
demonstrated movement rates between 100 and 120 m/min
(Krustrup et al., 2005; Mohr et al., 2008; Andersson et al., 2010;
Bradley et al., 2014; Hewitt et al., 2014; Datson et al., 2017;
Mara et al., 2017b; Trewin et al., 2018a,b;Julian et al., 2020;
Scott et al., 2020b) with only a few showing movement rates
below 100 m/min (Martínez-Lagunas et al., 2016; DeWitt et al.,
2018; Moraleda et al., 2021; Principe et al., 2021) and one above
120 m/min (Datson et al., 2017). Interestingly, only the top
finishing teams in the 2015 and 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cups
had movement rates that were aligned (105–113 m/min) with
the general consensus from the literature, whereas the bottom
finishing teams were between 86 and 94 m/min (Bradley and
Scott, 2020). Additionally, there was a sizeable gap in movement
rate between German teams in the 2nd division (104 m/min)
and 4th division (91 m/min) (Martínez-Lagunas et al., 2016).
The differences between top and bottom teams within a given
standard of play (i.e., divisions in a professional league or
international events like the World Cup) could be the result
of contextual factors (e.g., lower-level teams making tactical
decision to largely play defense). It is also possible these outcomes
highlight supportive evidence for the link between fitness levels
and distances covered during women’s soccer matches (Krustrup
et al., 2005).
There is a substantial range describing the high-speed running
and sprinting distances in elite women’s matches, which is
directly attributable to the wide variety of thresholds used to
define these particular metrics (see Table 1). For example, some
studies have used 12.0–12.5 kph as the lower limit for a given
threshold (e.g., high-intensity running) (Bradley et al., 2014;
Hewitt et al., 2014; Mara et al., 2017b; Scott et al., 2020a,b), but the
upper limit has ranged between 18.0 and 22.5 kph. Subsequently,
the reported distances vary from 2,300–2,450 m (Bradley et al.,
2014; Hewitt et al., 2014; Mara et al., 2017b) when using 18.0
kph, compared with 2,800 m being captured as a result of using
22.5 kph (Scott et al., 2020a,b). Three studies have examined both
professional and international women’s matches; despite similar
total distances between standards (within their respective studies)
(Mohr et al., 2008; Andersson et al., 2010; Scott et al., 2020a), two
studies reported 15–29% more high-intensity running during
international matches (Mohr et al., 2008; Andersson et al., 2010),
whereas the other found only a 3% difference (Scott et al., 2020a).
The wider velocity zone (12.5–22.5 kph) (Scott et al., 2020a)
may have impacted the outcomes because smaller differences in
distance are seen between standards at slower speeds (e.g., 6–16
kph), thus potentially washing out an effect that was observed
when using a smaller velocity zone (15–18 kph) (Mohr et al.,
2008; Andersson et al., 2010). On the other hand, it is possible
that differences between international and professional matches
dissipate when players at both levels compete together. Thus,
elevated international match demands may be the result of
contextual factors inherent to the competition itself (i.e., higher
stakes, greater motivation), rather than as unique physiological
characteristics of international level players. Lastly, the influence
of natural (660 m) and synthetic (770 m) turf on high-
intensity running during women’s matches has also been reported
(Vescovi and Falenchuk, 2019) and demonstrates how this
contextual factor might impact match demands at this standard
of play.
Sprinting distances between studies also varies widely because
of the different velocity thresholds. Several studies have used
>20 kph and found sprint distances between 250 and 350 m
per match (Martínez-Lagunas et al., 2016; Meylan et al.,
2017; Nakamura et al., 2017; Trewin et al., 2018a,b;Ramos
et al., 2019; Vescovi and Falenchuk, 2019; Julian et al., 2020;
Principe et al., 2021), with substantially smaller distances shown
(120–180 m) when higher thresholds are used (22.5–25.1 kph)
(Datson et al., 2017; Bradley and Scott, 2020; Scott et al.,
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Vescovi et al. Demands of Women’s Soccer Matches
TABLE 2 | Locomotor distances and movement rate across standards.
Match <6 kph 6–8 kph 8–12 kph 12–16 kph 16–20 kph >20 kph >16 kph Total Rate
Duration (min) Zone 1 (m) Zone 2 (m) Zone 3 (m) Zone 4 (m) Zone 5 (m) Zone 6 (m) Zone 5+6 (m) Distance (m) (m/min)
U15 80 (2) 2,597 (368) 838 (193) 1,996 (395) 958 (226) 465 (111) 79 (61) 545 (141) 6,936 (335) 87 (4)
U16 84 (1) 2,957 (358) 896 (179) 2,168 (469) 1,211 (365) 562 (179) 150 (115) 713 (206) 7,946 (869) 94 (11)
U17 90 (0) 3,124 (328) 1,031 (162) 2,461 (610) 1,306 (456) 609 (163) 213 (174) 823 (281) 8,746 (928) 97 (10)
NCAA 97 (4) 3,178 (279) 1,251 (185) 2,898 (487) 1,455 (307) 744 (205) 237 (121) 981 (309) 9,762 (774) 101 (8)
PRO 94 (2) 3,363 (369) 1,276 (258) 2,851 (484) 1,728 (471) 752 (184) 361 (191) 1,113 (288) 10,332 (877) 109 (9)
INT 91 (2) 2,846 (247) 1,242 (114) 2,977 (308) 1,827 (318) 837 (172) 414 (170) 1,251 (276) 10,144 (546) 111 (6)
Values are mean (SD). Data from author (JDV).
2020a,b). These differences between studies are expected since
the impact of implementing various high-velocity thresholds on
these locomotor distances has been previously demonstrated in
professional women’s matches (Vescovi, 2012; Bradley et al.,
2014). Nevertheless, players competing in international matches
have 16–26% more sprint distances than during professional
matches (Mohr et al., 2008; Andersson et al., 2010; Scott et al.,
2020a). An examination of the previous three FIFA Women’s
World Cups indicates nearly identical sprint distances between
2011 and 2015 (485 vs. 472 m; using >20 kph) (Martínez-
Lagunas and Scott, 2016), but a 21% increase from 2015 to
2019 (558 vs. 677 m; using >19 kph) (Bradley and Scott,
2020). Taken together and despite the difficulty of making direct
comparisons between published studies, greater high-intensity
demands are evident at the highest standard.
Developmental Perspective
Table 2 displays the total distance, movement rate and distances
in each velocity band across the developmental spectrum. In
general, total match distances are aligned with data from
the literature for the respective cohorts and shows a strong
linear increase from youth (7.0–8.7 km) to professional and
international matches (10 km) (Figure 1). This relationship
remained even after taking match duration into account,
although after the NCAA a plateau of movement rate occurred
for professional (domestic) and international matches. The
movement rates for professional and international matches are
similar to the top teams that competed in the 2011 (106–
120 m/min) (Ritschard and Tschopp, 2012), 2015 (108–113
m/min) (Martínez-Lagunas and Scott, 2016), and 2019 (105-
110 m/min) FIFA Women’s World Cup (Bradley and Scott,
2020) tournaments. As a proportion of total distance, Zone 2
(12–13%) and Zone 3 (27.5–29.5%) remained fairly constant
between all standards of play. However, there was a larger
change in the relative distances for lower (Zone 1) and higher
(Zone 5+6) speed movements, demonstrating that younger
players perform greater proportions of walking and smaller
proportions of high-intensity movement compared to higher
standards (Figure 2). So, young players will be exposed to greater
demands progressing through age-groups and then again if they
progress to play at the college level. The greater demands through
youth and into college will be somewhat connected to increased
match duration, but more important, also linked with higher
FIGURE 1 | Average total distance and movement rate across standards.
Data from author (JDV).
match tempos. College athletes seeking to compete at even higher
standards will be required to have 10% faster movement rates
in order to match the tempo of professional and international
players. This will result from a substantially greater percent
change for high-intensity distances (Zones 5+6) compared with
total distance. For example, the relative changes between U17
and NCAA Division I is 12% for total distance and 19% for
high-intensity running. Similarly, 6% and 13% increases are
evident when transitioning between Division I and professional
matches for total and high-intensity distance, respectively. These
are critical pieces to understand when designing the physical
preparation component of player development models.
ACCELERATION AND DECELERATION
DEMANDS
Quantifying the distance covered and movement rate of soccer
matches only describes a portion of the demands experienced
by players since the intermittent nature of the game requires
frequent changes of speed. The positive (acceleration) and
negative (deceleration) changes in speed impose additional
demands on the body than when moving at a constant
velocity (Osgnach et al., 2010). These changes in speed may
be brief and not meet the duration (e.g., >1 s) or speed (e.g.,
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Vescovi et al. Demands of Women’s Soccer Matches
FIGURE 2 | Average percent distance of Zone 1 and Zone 5+6 across
standards. Data from author (JDV).
>20 kph) requirements that would result in the activities
being labeled as high-velocity running activities within GPS
systems. Nevertheless, they are still high-intensity actions
based on acceleration (Akenhead et al., 2013; Mara et al.,
2016; Nakamura et al., 2017). Therefore, it is important for
practitioners to give consideration to the quantity and intensity of
accelerations and decelerations when examining match demands
of women’s soccer.
Youth
There is a single study describing the acceleration profile for
youth women’s soccer matches (Ramos et al., 2019). The physical
demands of seven matches from the U17 National Brazilian
team demonstrated that, on average, players performed 150–200
accelerations (>1 m/s2) and 85–122 decelerations (>1 m/s2)
during an international event.
College
Several research groups have described acceleration profiles
(Ramos et al., 2017, 2019; Jagim et al., 2020) as well as
accelerometer derivative metrics (e.g., player load) (Wells et al.,
2015; Gentles et al., 2018; Strauss et al., 2019) for college
age-group matches. The accelerometer derivatives might be
useful metrics because they can account for movements such
as jumping; however, these do not directly reflect changes in
horizonal speed and thus are not considered here.
Categorizing movements into specific bins demonstrated
the vast majority of accelerations and decelerations were
low intensity (±0.5–1.99 m/s2, 953 vs. 1,010, respectively),
when compared with moderate (±2.00–2.99 m/s2, 64 vs. 69,
respectively), and high-intensity (±3.00–50.0 m/s2, 10 vs. 17,
respectively), counts for Division III NCAA matches (Jagim et al.,
2020). During a U20 international tournament players performed
172–196 accelerations and 108–145 decelerations (>1 m/s2)
(Ramos et al., 2019); however, these values were substantially
reduced when the threshold was increased to >2 m/s2(13–17 and
11–25, respectively), in the same group (Ramos et al., 2017).
Professional and International
Several studies have reported acceleration (Meylan et al., 2017;
Trewin et al., 2018a,b;Principe et al., 2021) and deceleration
profiles (Mara et al., 2017a; Ramos et al., 2019; Principe
et al., 2021) for elite female soccer players. Three studies were
conducted by the same group and implemented the same
definition (>2.26 m/s2) to quantify the frequency of accelerations
that occurred during matches (Meylan et al., 2017; Trewin et al.,
2018a,b). In general, the number of accelerations performed
was about 1.8/min (162 for 90 min match) (Meylan et al.,
2017; Trewin et al., 2018b). They also demonstrated contextual
factors (hot environment had lowest count =1.73/min or 156;
draws vs. lower teams had highest count =2.07/min or 186)
influenced the number of accelerations performed (Trewin et al.,
2018a,b).
A few studies described both acceleration and deceleration
profiles (Ramos et al., 2019; Moraleda et al., 2021; Principe
et al., 2021). The Brazilian women’s national team was
monitored during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and had average
acceleration and deceleration counts ranging from 201–218 to
161–182 per match, respectively (Ramos et al., 2019). These
outcomes demonstrate acceleration counts are about 16–38%
higher when using a substantially lower threshold (1 m/s2)
(Ramos et al., 2019) than reported above. Professional Brazilian
players had substantially lower acceleration and deceleration
frequencies (also used >1 m/s2-155 and 157, respectively)
(Principe et al., 2021) than their national team counterparts,
highlighting the distinction between these two standards of play.
Another study implemented a threshold of 2 m/s2but uniquely
described accelerations and decelerations by the starting and
finishing speed associated with the movement and classified the
frequency counts in six different zones (Mara et al., 2017a). They
reported a total of 423 and 430 accelerations and decelerations,
respectively, with the majority of them (250 each) having a
low starting and ending speed (<3.4 m/min). Interestingly, this
study found substantially greater counts of accelerations and
decelerations in elite women’s matches (about double) despite
using a threshold that was between other research groups (1.0
vs. 2.0 vs. 2.26 m/s2). Perhaps the video system (25 Hz) is more
sensitive than GPS technology (10 Hz) for quantifying these
match demands. When monitoring acceleration counts for elite
matches practitioners need to consider match-to-match variation
(12–21%) (Meylan et al., 2017; Trewin et al., 2018a).
Developmental Perspective
The acceleration and deceleration profiles shown in Table 3
highlight several key features across the developmental spectrum.
First, more than 95% of accelerations and 85% of decelerations
occurred between 1.8 and 3.6 m/s2. These thresholds are the
manufacturer defaults, nevertheless the skewed distribution
suggests that alternative values are likely needed if practitioners
want to qualify these metrics as low, moderate and high-intensity.
Improved quantification of frequency counts might require
assessment of acceleration ability across the developmental
spectrum to identify appropriate thresholds. Second, the total
accelerations for professional and international matches (145–
158 or 1.6–1.8/min) appear somewhat aligned with previous
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Vescovi et al. Demands of Women’s Soccer Matches
TABLE 3 | Acceleration and deceleration frequencies across standards.
Match 1.8–3.6 m/s23.6–5.4 m/s25.4–7.2 m/s2Accel 1.8–3.6 m/s23.6–5.4 m/s25.4–7.2 m/s2Decel
Duration (min) Accel 1 (n) Accel 2 (n) Accel 3 (n) Total (n) Decel 1 (n) Decel 2 (n) Decel 3 (n) Total (n)
U15 80 (2) 98 (19) 2 (2) 0 101 (20) 103 (17) 9 (6) 1 (1) 113 (18)
U16 84 (1) 109 (33) 3 (2) 0 112 (34) 112 (21) 12 (5) 1 (2) 125 (26)
U17 90 (0) 109 (31) 2 (2) 0 112 (31) 114 (24) 13 (6) 1 (1) 129 (29)
NCAA 97 (4) 144 (29) 5 (3) 0 149 (31) 141 (32) 20 (8) 2 (2) 163 (38)
PRO 94 (2) 145 (26) 5 (3) 0 151 (27) 144 (28) 21 (8) 2 (2) 167 (32)
INT 91 (2) 158 (23) 6 (4) 0 164 (25) 146 (22) 23 (8) 3 (2) 172 (27)
Values are mean (SD). Data from author (JDV).
studies using GPS technology, despite implementing different
thresholds (1 and 2.26 m/s2) (Meylan et al., 2017; Trewin et al.,
2018a,b;Ramos et al., 2019). It is unclear what could cause this
but is likely a result of subtle differences in vendor software
calculations. Lastly, the largest change in acceleration (34%)
and deceleration (26%) frequency occurs between youth and
NCAA matches. This highlights a substantial component for
player development pathways aimed at athletes making the
transition from high school to college.
METABOLIC POWER DEMANDS
The introduction of metabolic power (di Prampero et al., 2005)
and subsequent application to soccer match analysis (Osgnach
et al., 2010) has integrated acceleration and deceleration data
to define additional metrics. This method has been suggested to
better represent match demands than relying upon velocity based
demands alone, especially for high-intensity work (Gaudino
et al., 2013). The outcomes include distances within various
metabolic power bands (similar to establishing velocity bands
for locomotor distances) as well as the energetic cost (internal
load metric). An important note, unlike velocity thresholds, the
originally proposed metabolic power thresholds (Osgnach et al.,
2010) have been consistently applied in the literature, which are:
<10 (low), 10–20 (moderate), 20–35 (high), 35–55 (elevated),
and >55 (maximal) W/kg. Although updated algorithms have
been developed to improve the accuracy of this method (di
Prampero and Osgnach, 2018; Osgnach and di Prampero, 2018),
it should be noted that studies reporting on metabolic power in
women’s soccer are scarce and have applied the original approach
(di Prampero et al., 2005).
Youth
As of this writing, there are no published studies examining the
metabolic power demands of youth female soccer matches.
College
Two studies have examined metabolic power in women’s college
soccer matches (Wells et al., 2015; Williams et al., 2019) but
described limited outcome variables despite the ability to quantify
several more (Osgnach et al., 2010). In one study, the mean
high-metabolic power distance (>20 W/kg) in NCAA Division
I matches was 1,839 and 440 m for regulation and extra-time,
respectively (Williams et al., 2019). The total for that study
(2,279 m total) is similar to unpublished data from NCAA
matches (2,126 m–Table 3) that also includes stoppage-time
(mean match duration, 97 min). An important consideration for
practitioners is that stoppage and extra-time can substantially
elevate the amount of high-metabolic power distance (Williams
et al., 2019), therefore recovery strategies from those matches
become more important, especially if there is little time before the
next match as often is the case with the NCAA soccer schedule.
Using this method (Osgnach et al., 2010) also allows for an
estimation of energetic demands. One study reported a 10%
increase in energy expenditure between regular season (34 kj/kg)
and post-season (38 kj/kg) college matches which was linked to
an additional 700 m of total distance (Wells et al., 2015). The
energetic demands were greater (48 kj/kg) in another group of
Division I players (Williams et al., 2019) and even higher for
NCAA teams in Table 4 (53 kj/kg). Although all were NCAA
Division I teams, the ones included in Table 4 had a high
national ranking (e.g., six of nine teams ranked top 30 and
three ranked top 10). Similar to the differences described for
locomotor movement rates between top and bottom teams in
FIFA Women’s World Cup (Bradley and Scott, 2020) there are
likely variations in the tempo of play across NCAA Division
I that could subsequently impact energetic demands of these
matches. Furthermore, the implementation of the metabolic
power methodology could be modified by commercially available
GPS systems (Williams et al., 2019) in order to have a proprietary
competitive advantage, which could have also influenced the
reported outcomes between studies (Terziotti et al., 2018).
Additionally, when converting the relative energetic demands
from these studies into calorie expenditure (520–770 kcal)
(Wells et al., 2015; Williams et al., 2019), they are substantially
lower than values obtained using heart rate derived equivalents
(1,100–1,400 kcal) (Jagim et al., 2020; McFadden et al., 2020),
thus it does not appear the outcomes from various methods can
be used interchangeably.
Professional and International
To date there are two published studies that include metabolic
power demands for female players. Both studies evaluated
professional domestic match play and included the same cohort
of players from the WPS league (Vescovi, 2016; Vescovi
and Falenchuk, 2019). Playoff matches showed greater mean
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Vescovi et al. Demands of Women’s Soccer Matches
TABLE 4 | Metabolic power distances and load across standards.
Match <10 W/kg 10–20 W/kg 20–35 W/kg 35–55 W/kg >55 W/kg >20 W/kg Equivalent Metabolic
Duration (min) Zone 1 (m) Zone 2 (m) Zone 3 (m) Zone 4 (m) Zone 5 (m) Zone 3+(m) Distance (m) Load (kj/kg)
U15 80 (2) 3,926 (312) 1,555 (274) 881 (133) 342 (60) 147 (47) 1,370 (178) 8,411 (452) 39.1 (2)
U16 84 (1) 4,402 (277) 1,853 (492) 1,026 (260) 395 (107) 179 (97) 1,600 (400) 9,349 (1,136) 43.4 (5)
U17 90 (0) 4,789 (231) 2,021 (528) 1,197 (289) 461 (99) 178 (86) 1,835 (416) 10,170 (1,195) 47.2 (6)
NCAA 97 (4) 5,124 (276) 2,415 (466) 1,378 (257) 522 (100) 225 (66) 2,126 (372) 11,569 (997) 53.7 (5)
PRO 94 (2) 5,144 (293) 2,435 (436) 1,460 (279) 573 (103) 274 (80) 2,307 (392) 11,617 (1,507) 53.9 (7)
INT 91 (2) 4,935 (170) 2,681 (303) 1,595 (209) 624 (81) 306 (73) 2,527 (299) 11,745 (1,121) 51.9 (11)
Values are mean (SD). Data from author (JDV).
metabolic power (10.2 W/kg) than regular season matches (9.2
W/kg), which corresponded to 23, 26, and 29% more relative
distance covered in high (19.4 vs. 15.8 m/min), elevated (7.2
vs. 5.7 m/min) and maximal (2.2 vs. 1.7 m/min) metabolic
power categories, respectively (Vescovi, 2016). There was little
impact on metabolic power metrics when examining various
contextual factors (i.e., home vs. away, natural vs. artificial turf,
and match outcome) (Vescovi and Falenchuk, 2019). The only
notable difference was greater high-metabolic power distance
when matches were played on artificial turf (16.3 m/min) than
on natural turf (14.4 m/min). When the top three categories are
taken together (>20 W/kg) the distances covered on natural and
artificial turf were 2,070 and 2,313 m (Vescovi and Falenchuk,
2019), which are greater than the value previously described for
college matches (regulation-time 1,839 m) (Wells et al., 2015).
The energetic demands of players competing at higher
standards have also been described. During a modified match
structure (3 ×20 min), female players had a relative energetic
load of 37 kj/kg (2,400 kj) (Mara et al., 2015a). Even higher
values have been reported from professional regular-season and
post-season matches (51–58 kj/kg) (Vescovi, 2016; Moss et al.,
2020). This equates to 900 kcal expenditure during professional
women’s soccer matches, which is greater than measured values
(744 kcal) reported for professional German players during a
90-min training game (Martínez-Lagunas, 2013). However, the
overall movement demands were lower (total distance 7,230 m
and distance >16 kph 631 m) than values typically observed
during regulation matches and so lower energy expenditure
values would be expected. Nonetheless, these data highlight the
overall energetic needs for female players is likely between 750
and 900 kcal per match.
Developmental Perspective
The data provided in Table 4 fills some of the gaps identified
in the literature surrounding metabolic power and also includes
a derived metric, equivalent distance. The equivalent distance
is a way to express the distance an athlete would have traveled
at a steady pace on grass by using the total energy expended
during the entire match (Osgnach et al., 2010). The ratio of
equivalent distance to total distance (called equivalent distance
index–EDI) has been previously defined for convenience to be
1.20 (Osgnach et al., 2010). The equivalent distance and its
index may be metrics of interest because they represent the
overall volume and metabolic intensity a player experiences
during a match, respectively (di Prampero and Osgnach, 2018;
Osgnach and di Prampero, 2018). It is evident that there are
steadily increasing values for several metrics such as metabolic
load, movement rate, and equivalent distance from youth
and into the NCAA matches, which then seem to plateau at
higher standards. Similar to Table 2, the percent change among
standards for high-metabolic power distance (Zone 3+>20
W/kg) is substantially larger than the corresponding percent
change between levels for equivalent distance (9–17 vs. 1–
14%, respectively). The reason this occurred is unknown, but
since these metrics take into account acceleration/deceleration,
their distribution might offer insights into potential links.
Currently, the skewed distribution of this dataset obstructs
an understanding on this topic - perhaps applying different
acceleration/deceleration thresholds would be better suited to
investigate this in the future. Nonetheless, metabolic power
outcomes provide supportive evidence for giving attention to
developing the ability to perform greater amounts of high-
intensity effort across the developmental spectrum.
PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS AND
APPLICATIONS
The data presented highlights the physical demands of women’s
soccer matches across the developmental spectrum. This
information can be used by clubs, leagues and federations for
player development within and between levels of play. It could
also be used for return to play protocols for injured players
during the rehabilitation process. It is beyond the scope of this
paper to detail the specific ways to go about incorporating this
into the daily training environment and rehabilitation settings.
However, coaches and fitness practitioners can likely focus on
two overarching objectives with respect to effectively using
information on the physical demands of women’s matches. The
first way is to help players achieve the match demands within
their current standard. For example, players on a particular team
or teams within a given level (e.g., U15, NCAA Division III)
will demonstrate a range of physical match demands for any
of the metrics described above. Improving the physical fitness
qualities of players/teams that are at the lower end of the range
can subsequently have a positive impact on performance during
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Vescovi et al. Demands of Women’s Soccer Matches
matches. The second focus for coaches and practitioners is to
prepare athletes/teams who are looking to transition to the next
higher standard (i.e., a player going from college to professional,
or a team being promoted from a lower to higher professional
division). In these circumstances, the physical preparation must
be targeted at the demands for the higher level with care taken to
implement a periodized plan over a sufficient amount of time to
elicit the desired (beneficial) physiological adaptations.
A general heuristic often followed in endurance training is
for athletes to perform 2.0–2.5 times the competition distance
as total weekly training volume. Translated to women’s soccer,
that would mean if total distances during matches were 7 km
(youth), 9 km (college), or 11 km (professional/elite), then
total weekly volume should roughly be 14–18, 18–22, and 22–
28 km, respectively. These theoretical targets for total weekly
training distance seem to be somewhat aligned with what has
been reported for professional teams (16–22 km, exclusive of
matches) (Mara et al., 2015b; Moraleda et al., 2021). Please
note, the ratio (2.0–2.5X) would only be applied to total volume
since evidence-based recommendations on other metrics (i.e.,
sprint distance, volume of accelerations, metabolic power) do
not currently exist. These distances could be programmed into
the weekly training sessions and incorporated directly into
practice with soccer-specific drills and small-sided games that
target particular attributes of interest (e.g., very short maximal
accelerations [<5 m], achievement of maximal velocity [15–
20 m], etc.). This type of approach enables technical, tactical
and physical components to be developed simultaneously and
reduces the need for additional (off-field) work.
MOVING FORWARD
There has been a steady increase in the number of published
studies describing the physical demands of women’s soccer
matches. The advancements in video capture systems and GPS
technology have enabled the expansion of insights about a broad
spectrum of movement demands. Still, there are gaps specific
to women’s soccer that have been noted by others (Martínez-
Lagunas et al., 2014) and need to be addressed. First, there
is a lack of standardized thresholds for quantifying locomotor
distances as well as acceleration and deceleration profiles. This
prevents a unified understanding of match demands across the
developmental spectrum. The use of physiological (Bradley and
Vescovi, 2015; Trewin et al., 2018a) and mathematical (Park et al.,
2019) approaches have been suggested but still have not been
embraced (e.g., different thresholds implemented in previous
three Women’s World Cup events) (Ritschard and Tschopp,
2012; Martínez-Lagunas and Scott, 2016; Bradley and Scott,
2020). Second, there is a tremendous gap in research describing
the physical demands of youth soccer matches (U17). In
order to provide comprehensive training recommendations for
developmental pathways additional attention is required. Work
has been initiated in this area (Harkness-Armstrong et al., 2020),
but needs to continue through National Sport Organizations
and professional academies that have the necessary resources to
monitor players within their ecosystem, but effort is also required
by researchers to partner with women’s youth domestic leagues
in order to broaden the scope of understanding. Lastly, there
is limited data about the metabolic power metrics in women’s
soccer, which now exist in most commercially available GPS
systems. Therefore, if metabolic power provides insights beyond
velocity-based movement demands, then researchers should
begin to include these outcomes in published studies. Overall,
the direction of research in women’s soccer is very promising and
continued advancements to fill these gaps will ensure that better,
evidence-based recommendations are applied to the physical
developmental component of female player pathway models.
DATA AVAILABILITY STATEMENT
The datasets presented in this article are not readily available
because of pre-existing legal agreements. Requests to access the
datasets should be directed to Dr. Jason Vescovi.
ETHICS STATEMENT
The studies involving human participants were reviewed and
approved by York University, Office of Research Ethics. Written
informed consent to participate in this study was provided by the
participants’ legal guardian/next of kin.
AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS
JDV was responsible for manuscript concept, data collection,
writing, and revision of the paper. EF and AK were responsible
for conducting the literature search, writing, and revision of the
paper. All authors contributed to the article and approved the
submitted version.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Thanks to all of the players who participated in the author’s
research (JDV). Thanks to the coaches and managers for their
interest and support. Finally, thanks to the federations (Canada
Soccer, US Soccer Federation), committees (NCAA soccer coachs
and referee’s committees) and leagues (WPS and ECNL) for
providing permission to conduct these first of a kind studies.
I’m humbled for having these opportunities and been able to
contribute to the understanding of women’s soccer across the
developmental spectrum.
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Conflict of Interest: The authors declare that the research was conducted in the
absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a
potential conflict of interest.
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Frontiers in Sports and Active Living | www.frontiersin.org 12 April 2021 | Volume 3 | Article 634696
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The aim of this study was to compare external (EL) and internal loads (IL) during training sessions compared to official matches between elite female soccer players according to their playing position. Training and match data were obtained during the 2017/18 season from eighteen players (age: 26.5±5.7 years; height: 164.4±5.3 cm; body mass: 58.56±5.58 kg) from a first Division Spanish team. The EL (total distance covered; high-speed running distance; number of accelerations and decelerations) was assessed with a Global Positioning System (GPS) and triaxial accelerometer. The IL was assessed with ratings of perceived exertion (RPE; and session-RPE). The EL and the IL from official matches were higher compared to training sessions (p<0.05; effect size [ES]:0.6–5.4). In matches, the EL was greater in Attackers (AT) and Central Midfielders (CM) versus Central Backs (p<0.05; ES:0.21–1.74). During training sessions, the EL was similar between playing positions (p>0.05; ES:0.03–0.87). The EL and the IL are greater in matches compared to training sessions, with greater match-related EL in AT and CM players. Current results may help practitioners to better understand and modulate training session’s loads according to playing position, potentially contributing to their performance readiness and injury risk reduction.
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This study quantified whole and peak physical characteristics of Under (U)14 and U16 elite youth female soccer, and compared by position and age-group. Data was collected using 10 Hz GPS units from 431 match observations, during 50 matches involving 201 players (U14 n = 93; U16 n = 108) representing Regional Talent Centres in The Football Association’s Girl’s England Talent Pathway League. Whole match data were reported as absolute and relative; total (TD), high-speed running (HSR; ≥3.46 m·s⁻¹), very high-speed running (VHSR; ≥5.29 m·s⁻¹), and sprinting (SPR; ≥6.26 m·s⁻¹) distance, and maximum velocity. Moving average analysis determined peak data (1–10 minute durations). Linear mixed models established position-specific differences. U16s covered greater; absolute distance at all speeds (small-moderate ESs; p < 0.001); relative VHSR and SPR m·min⁻¹ (small-moderate ESs; p < 0.001); peak TD and HSR m·min⁻¹ (small ESs) across several peak-durations, and VHSR m·min⁻¹ (small ESs; p < 0.001) across all peak-durations compared to U14s. Position-specific differences were observed across all positions between and within both age-groups, identifying whole and peak physical characteristics are age- and position-dependent within elite youth female soccer match-play. Findings may facilitate informed coaching practices and training programme design, talent identification and development processes.
Article
Introduction The aim of the study was to investigate whether menstrual cycle phases influence the physical performance of elite female soccer players during match-play. Methods Fifteen elite female soccer players, with physiologically normal menstrual cycles competed in matches over a four-month period during the 2015/16 season. Physical performance was assessed via GPS devices and expressed as meters per minute and separated into four zones based on individualised thresholds (low, high, very high and sprinting). Seventy-six complete individual match observations, 36 from the follicular and 40 from the luteal phase were recorded. The differences in physical match performance parameters between the cycle phases were evaluated using a mixed linear model. Results The results of the current study indicate that very high intensity running distance was significantly greater during the luteal phase compared to the follicular phase (5.90 ± 2.16 m.min⁻¹ vs. 6.64 ± 2.72 m.min⁻¹; p = 0.02). However, this finding was accompanied by large variations across matches (CV = 39.5%). No other physical variable reached a level of significance (p > 0.05). Conclusions Overall, the results suggest that the menstrual cycle phase does not influence match physical performance of female soccer players to a significant degree. Other factors such as match-to-match variation seem to be far more influential than menstrual cycle phase. Therefore, at present interventions or other methods of coping with menstrual cycle phase do not seem necessary on a group/team level to maximise competitive physical performance.
Article
This study aimed to assess energy availability (EA), alongside possible risk factors of reduced or low EA of professional female soccer players during a competitive season. Thirteen players (age: 23.7 ± 3.4 y, stature: 1.69 ± 0.08 m, body mass: 63.7 ± 7.0 kg) engaged in a 5-day (two rest days, one light training, heavy training and match day) monitoring period. Energy intake (EI) and expenditure during exercise (EEE) were measured. EA was calculated and categorised as optimal, reduced or low (>45, 30-45, <30 kcal·kg FFM-1·day-1, respectively). Relationships between EA and bone mineral density, resting metabolic rate (RMR), plasma micronutrient status, biochemical markers and survey data were assessed. EA was optimal for 15%, reduced for 62% and low for 23% of players. Higher EA was observed on rest days compared to others (P<0.05). EA was higher for the light compared to the heavy training day (P<0.001). EEE differed significantly between days (P<0.05). EI (2124 ± 444 kcal), carbohydrate (3.31 ± 0.64 g·kg·day-1) and protein (1.83 ± 0.41 g·kg·day-1) intake remained similar (P>0.05). Survey data revealed 23% scored ≥ 8 on the Low Energy Availability in Females Questionnaire and met criteria for low RMR (ratio <0.90). Relationships between EA and risk factors were inconclusive. Most players displayed reduced EA and did not alter EI or carbohydrate intake according to training or match demands. Although cases of low EA were identified, further work is needed to investigate possible long-term effects and risk factors of low and reduced EA separately to inform player recommendations.
Article
McFadden, BA, Walker, AJ, Bozzini, BN, Sanders, DJ, and Arent, SM. Comparison of internal and external training loads in male and female collegiate soccer players during practices vs. games. J Strength Cond Res XX(X): 000-000, 2020-The purpose of this study was to compare the internal and external training loads (TLs) in men and women throughout a Division I soccer season during practices versus games. Players were evaluated during all practices and regulation game play using the Polar TeamPro system, utilizing Global Positioning Satellite technology and heart rate (HR) monitoring to determine TL, time spent in HR zones expressed as a percent of HRmax (HRZ1-Z5), calories expended per kilogram body mass (Kcal·kg), distance covered (DIS), sprints, average speed (SPDAVG), and distance covered in speed zones (DISZ1-Z5). During games, no significant differences were seen between men and women for TL, Kcal·kg, HRZ1-Z5, SPDAVG, DIS, DISZ1, DISZ3, and DISZ4. However, men accumulated a significantly greater number of sprints and DISZ5 (p < 0.05) during games, whereas women accumulated a greater DISZ2 (p < 0.05). During practice, no differences were observed for TL, DIS, sprints, Kcal·kg, DISZ2, DISZ3, HRZ1-Z5, but men exhibited higher SPDAVG, (p < 0.05), DISZ1 (p < 0.05), DISZ4 (p < 0.05), and DISZ5 (p < 0.05). The parallels in Kcal·kg, total DIS, HR, and TL indicate a similar relative workload between men and women. However, distance covered in higher speed zones was found to be greater in men than women across practice and games likely reflecting inherent sex differences in the ability to achieve those speeds. Monitoring techniques that track relative player workloads throughout practices and games may enhance player health and performance during the season. An individualized approach to tracking high-intensity running may improve workload prescriptions on a per player basis.
Article
Purpose: In U.S. collegiate soccer, matches that end drawn after 90-min of regulation time (RT) proceed to two 10-min extra time (ET) periods. This study quantified the physical demands and heart rate (HR) responses of playing ET matches in women’s collegiate soccer matches and compared performances during ET to those of RT. Methods: 25 female collegiate players (age = 18-22y) played 10 ET and 11 RT matches. Total and high-intensity distances, energy expended and HR were determined using GPS, accelerometry and HR monitoring. Players were categorized a full-time (FULL) or part-time (PART) players based on the minutes played during RT. Results: For both groups, physical performance measures showed only small changes over the course of the match and were generally maintained during both ET periods. During ET, performances of FULL players were similar to PART players. Also, performances of FULL during the RT portion of ET matches were similar to those during RT of competitive non-ET matches. Conclusions: These results suggest that female collegiate players maintain physical performance through RT and during an extra 20 min of ET. The ET periodscan increase total match workload by 20–25%. This increase should be considered when addressing short- and long-term periodization strategies.