World Cup Fitness by the Numbers

Every four years, 32 of the world’s best soccer teams (football to most) face off in a tournament that captures the attention and hearts of millions of loyal fans. While most people cheer on their favorite team from the comfort of the living room or local watering hole, these athletes participate in 90 minutes of grueling physical activity.

Just how grueling? recently published some stats that reveal how hard soccer players work during a game, and some of these numbers might surprise you.

7: Average distance, in miles, each player can run per game. Though they typically stay within their assigned zones of the field and get to take short rests. Mid-fielders (who play both offense and defense), see the most action, running up to 9.5 miles per game, according to SportVU. Compared to other sports, soccer players outrun most other athletes, besting basketball and tennis players.

8: Maximum distance, in miles, a referee could run during a game. Runner’s World recently reported that refs run 6 to 8 miles per game. A single referee tracks the ball over the entire field and relies on the help of up to two assistant refs to help him enforce the rules if they happen outside his view.

3: Number of daily workouts the U.S. team had in the four weeks leading up to the World Cup. Training camp started May 14th at Stanford University and included 30-minute runs before breakfast, a morning practice and an afternoon practice. (And some ping pong before bed.)

90: Length of a game in minutes, plus any “stoppage” time. That’s two 45-minute halves (with a 15-minute halftime) and, at the end of the second half, extra time gets added to the clock to make up for when play was halted as the result of injuries, fouls, and substitutions (the clock keeps running throughout the match).

5:20: Average running pace per mile potential World Cup referees must maintain during the second part of the fitness test from the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). They have to complete 10 laps on a track (or 2.5 miles) in 21:30, with a quarter of that distance spent walking. Here’s the breakdown: Run 150 meters in 30 seconds (that’s 5:20 per mile), then walk 50 meters in 35 seconds. They repeat that sequence 20 times. That’s AFTER the sprint test, where they must finish six 40-meter sprints under 6 seconds each, with only 90 seconds rest in between. So yeah, the refs are in ridiculous shape, too.

69,300: Size, in square feet, of the minimum regulation soccer pitch (for you soccer newbies, that’s the field). That’s 1.59 acres of surface area to cover. Per FIFA rulings, the fields for international matches must be between 110 yards long by 70 yards wide and 120 yards long by 80 yards wide.

24: Width, in feet, between goalposts—and the goal is 8 feet high. No wonder U.S. goalie Tim Howard trains a minimum of three hours a day in order to stop shots in their tracks.

Now you have another reason to root on your team this week!


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