Women’s World Cup soccer is upon us! What better time to look at all the interesting math behind the game? The World Cup for women and men happens once every 4 years and turns the city its hosted in into a soccer (or football) mecca for a few weeks. Whether your kids like to play striker, defensive, or keeper, there is some math to hold their attention. We will look at key stats and the math involved for all areas of the fields. Let’s jump into it and harness the power of soccer to get kids excited about math! Here is the latest blogs in Spark Math’s sports series “Math in Sports: Soccer and Mathematics”.
Key Stats and Math for Offensive Players
Goals and Goals Per Game (GPG)
The number of goals made by a player might be the single most crucial stat for measuring the greatness of an offensive player. Marta Vieira da Silva, colloquially known as just Marta, is the leading women’s goal scorer and Women’s World Cup history with 17 goals. Marta is the only player, male or female to score at 5 FIFA World Cup tournaments.
Goals are a simple and sweet stat. It requires basic addition to keep track of but when a player has over a decade of games played, those numbers add up quickly. Take soccer star Christiano Ronaldo for example. Ronaldo is an all time great scorer and the centerpiece of every team he’s played for in his 12 year carrer. Between professional club and international play, he scored 838 goals in 1168 games.
Goals per game (GPG) can show the consistent greatness of an offensive player. Calculating GPG requires knowing 3 pieces of information: Goals made, Games Played, and Division.
In the case of Christiano Ronaldo, he has 838 goals made and 1168 games played.
838/1168=0.72 games per game. This puts him near the very top of the list of modern players!
Time of Possession
Fans of soccer will hear about this stat often during the halftime analysis. Time of possession refers to how often a team has control of the ball. This applies to defenders as well but the bulk of the possession will be with the offensive players. Teams with a longer time of possession usually have more shots on goal, control the game, and are more likely to win.
Time of possession is normally expressed as a percentage. In Japan’s most recent World Cup win against Zambia, the ladies controlled the ball for 68% of the game and won in a landslide of 5-0.
Calculating Time of Possession
Regulation soccer matches are 90 minutes long with a 1-10 minute stoppage time.
The Japanese Women’s Team had possession for about 61 minutes of the game and the Zambian Women’s Team had possession for about 29 minutes of the game.
61/90=~0.68, 0.68 x 100= 68%
We divide the time of possession by the total number of game minutes then multiply that by 100 to get the percentage.
Key Stats and Math for Defensive Players and Goalkeepers
Clearances Per Game-Defenders
Defenders don’t get the glam and spotlight of the offensive players, but they are an essential part of a successful team. A clearance is when a defender clears the ball out of their own goal area. What separates a great defender from a serviceable one is the high number of clearances per game.
Calculating Clearances Per Game
Start by using addition to find the total number of clearances a given player has. Next, determine the number of appearances the player has.
Let’s look at Premier League Everton’s star defender James Tarkowski. He made 38 appearances and logged 196 clearances during the 2022-2023 season.
196/38=5.5 clearances per game
Percentage of Shots Saved-Goalkeepers
The keeper requires a cool head, fast reflexes, and flawless technique. Beyond all that, the goalkeeper’s most significant role is stopping shots on the goal. A save occurs when the keeper prevents an opponent’s shot on goal. US Men’s legendary goalkeeper Tim Howard holds the record of saves in a game of 16!
In the 2014 FIFA World Cup game against Belgium, Howard stopped 16 of Belgium’s 18 shots on goals.
Calculating the Percentage of Shots Saved
16saves/18shots=0.88 x 100 = 88% Percentage of shots saved.
Incredibly, the US still lost to the mighty Belgium squad despite Howard’s heroics.
This stat can also be measured across an entire season or even a career. Using the same formula, take the total number of saves, divide it by the total shots on target, and then multiply by 100 to get the percentage.
Become a world champion with Spark Math
With the 2023 Women’s World Cup in full swing, now is the best time to have your kids calculate their favorite player’s stats. When soccer season rolls around in the fall, keep track of your child’s stats and have them use their math skills to calculate these crucial stat points.
Here at Spark Math we believe in the value of helping children discover math in their daily life. If you’re looking for more sports math, check out the rest of our Math in Sports series! For courses on how to master these math skills and all the other essentials, try a free trial class now!