As we all know the U.S. Soccer team won’t be competing at the World Cup this summer. This is the first time the country has failed to qualify since the World Cup 1986 in Mexico. This is a huge blow to a sport which just a few years ago seemed like the perfect platform for the men’s game to build upon when an estimated 25 million people watched the team’s 2-2 draw with Portugal during the 2014 World Cup, beating viewership for the NBA Finals that same month.
Now, as part of its attempts to rise from the rock bottom, US soccer is turning to wearable technology. A new partnership with Irish company STATSports will initially equip 6,000 young players at Development Academy clubs with the APEX GPS pod.
The APEX Athlete Monitoring devices are already used by a number of clubs in the English Premier League and across other professional sports.
Worn in a compression vest and positioned between the shoulder blades, these elite tracking devices assess physical performance including physical load and movement during training and matches for players. The high-resolution units measure physical metrics such as speed, distance, heart rate, load, acceleration, deceleration and high-speed running. In a typical training session millions of data points will be collected on a player, delivering an unrivaled perception into their performance.
“APEX allows you to look at left or right load balance. It splits each move into how much you’re pushing off your left and right,” explains James Bunce, who previously worked as head of performance director for the EPL. “There’s very good evidence to show when balance becomes abnormal, players are trying to prevent loading on a certain side of the body. That’s often a factor in carrying some sort of knock or injury.”
In regard to the size, accuracy and ability to monitor in real time, the STATSports APEX GPS is cutting edge device. The live capabilities of the APEX Team Series system enable it to make real time decisions to adapt training or player performances. The data can be streamed to a phone, smart watch or iPad making the hardware easy to integrate onto the training pitch.
The abundance of data provided by the wearable will be accessible by the players and their clubs. Some of the minor complexities of the data flow are still being worked out before the device rolls out. However, ultimately that data will be featured on national leaderboards, allowing players and clubs to appraise their skill against counterparts across the country. It could also have deep consequences in scouting and recruitment, as clubs look to improve their player list and pinpoint future stars.
“It’ll allow these young athletes and their parents to get an idea of where they’re at physically,” says STATSports co-founder Sean O’Connor. “They’ll be able to look at metrics like their power, their explosiveness, distances and speed, it’ll give them a really good handle as to where they. The app will help create drills that will help [players] improve and focus on specific areas in order to improve those metrics.