The effect of contextual variables on match running performance in a category 3, U18 English Academy soccer team


  • David Barron Non-affiliated researcher, United Kingdom
  • Chris Yiannaki University of Central Lancashire, United Kingdom
  • John Fry University Centre Myerscough, United Kingdom
  • Jake Atherton Preston North End FC, Academy, United Kingdom



Performance analysis of sport, High speed running, Sprinting, Global Positioning System (GPS), Contextual


This study aimed to examine the effect of contextual variables on match running performance (MRP) in a category three English Academy U18 soccer team during a competitive season. Total distance (TD), high speed running (HSR) and sprinting (SPT) performance was analysed during the 2020-2021 season. A total of 25 league games were analysed using Catapult Vector GPS (10Hz) and 14 outfield players included for analysis. Players were classified into full back (n = 4), central defender (n = 2), wide midfielder (n = 2), central midfielder (n = 2) and forward (n = 2). Dependent variables were TD, HSR and SPT and independent variables were: match location, match outcome, opposition strength and fixture congestion. Non-significant differences were found for TD and HSR which was higher during all home games compared to all away games, and specifically during home wins compared to away wins. There were no significant differences in MRP against stronger or weaker strength opponents or during period of fixture congestion. Positional comparison showed wide midfielders to complete more SPT than central midfielders during home wins (p < .05). All other positional differences were non-significant. Practitioners should examine the influence of contextual variables on a club and positional basis to inform individualised training schedules in support of the player development pathway.


Download data is not yet available.


Aquino, R., Carling, C., Viera, L., Martins, G., Jabor, G., Machado, J., Santiago, P., Garganta, J. & Puggina, E. (2018). Influence of situational variables, team formation and playing position on match running performance and social network analysis in Brazilian professional soccer. J Strength Cond Res, 34(30), 808-817.

Almeida, C. & Leite, W. (2021). Professional football in times of COVID-19: did the home advantage effect disappear in European domestic leagues? Biol Sport, 38(4), 693-701.

Augusto, D., Brito, J., Aquino, R., Figueiredo, P., Eiras, F., Tannure, M., Veiga, B. & Vasconcellos, F. (2021). Contextual variables affect running performance in professional soccer players: a brief report. Front Sports Act Living, 13(3), 1-8.

Algoy, E., Grendstad, H., Riiser, A., Nybakken, T., Saterbakken, A., Andersen, V. & Gundersen, H. (2021). Motion analysis of match play in U14 male soccer players and the influence of position, competitive level and contextual variables. Int J Environ Res Public Health, 18(14), 7287.

Andrzejewski, M., Konefal, M., Chmura, P., Kowalczuk, E. & Chumra, J. (2016). Match outcome and distances covered at various speeds in match play by elite German soccer players. Int J Perform AnalSport,16(3),817-828.

Buchheit, M., Horobeanu, C., Mendez-Villanueva, A., Simpson, B. & Bourdon, P. (2011). Effects of age and spa treatment over two consecutive games in highly trained young soccer players. J Sports Sci, 29(6), 591-598.

Bush, M., Barnes, C., Archer, D., Hogg, B. & Bradley, P. (2015). Evolution of match performance parameters for various playing positions in the English Premier League. Hum Mov Sci, 39(1), 1-11.

Barrera, J., Sarmento, H., Clemente, F., Field, A. & Figueiredo, A. (2021). The effect of contextual variables on match performance across different playing positions in professional Portuguese soccer players. Int J Environ Res Public Health, 18(10): 5175.

Beato, M., Drust, D. & Iacano, A. (2021). Implementing high-speed running and sprinting training in professional soccer. Int J Sports Med, 42(4), 295-299.

Bradley, P., Lago-Penas, C., Rey, E. & Sampaio, J. (2014). The influence of situational variables on ball possession in the English Premier League soccer matches. J Sports Sci, 32(20), 1867-1873.

Bradley, P. & Noakes, T. (2013). Match running performance fluctuations in elite soccer: indicative of fatigue, pacing or situational influences? J Sports Sci, 31(15), 1627-1638.

Carling, C., Bloomfield, J., Nelson, L. & Reilly, T. (2008). The role of motion analysis in elite soccer: contemporary performance measurement techniques and work rate data. Sports Med, 38(10), 839-862.

Carling, C. (2013). Interpreting physical performance in professional soccer match-play: should we be more pragmatic in our approach? Sports Med, 43(8), 655-663.

Carling, C., Gregson, W., McCall, A., Moreira, A., Wong, D. & Bradley, P. (2015a). Match running performance during fixture congestion in elite soccer: research issues and future directions. Sports Med, 45(5), 605-613.

Carling, C., McCall, A., Le Gall, F. & Dupont, G. (2015b). What is the extent of exposure to periods of match congestion in professional soccer players? J Sports Sci, 33(20), 2116-2124.

Carling, C., Bradley, P., McCall, A., Dupont, G. (2016). Match to match variability in high-speed running activity in a professional soccer team. J Sports Sci, 34(24), 2215-2223.

Castellano, J., Blanco-Villasenor, A. & Alvarez, D. (2011). Contextual variables and time motion analysis in soccer. Int J Sports Med, 32(6), 415-421.

Castellano, J., Martin Garcia, A. & Casamichana, D. (2020). Most running demands passages of match play in youth soccer congestion period. Biol Sport, 37(4), 367-373.

Castagna, C., Impellizzeri, F., Rampinini, E., Barbero, J. (2009). Effects of intermittent endurance fitness on match performance in young soccer players. J Strength Cond Res, 23(7), 1954-1959.

Crang, Z., Duthie, G., Cole, M., Weakley, J., Hewitt, A. & Johnston, R. (2021). The validity and reliability of wearable microtechnology for intermittent sports: a systematic review. Sports Med, 51(3), 549-565.

Dalen, T., Ingebrigtsen, J., Gertjan, E., Havard, H. & Wisloff, U. (2016). Player load, acceleration and deceleration during forty-five competitive matches of elite soccer. J Strength Cond Res, 30(2), 351-359.

Dellal, A., Lago-Penas, C., Rey, E., Chamari, K. & Orhant, E. (2015). The effects of a congested fixture period on physical performance, technical activity and injury rate during matches in a professional soccer team. Br J Sports Med, 49(6), 390-394.

Di Salvo, V., Pigozzi, F., Gonzalez-Haro, C., Laughlin, M. & De Witt, J. (2013). Match performance comparison in top English soccer leagues. Int J Sports Med, 34(6),526-532.

Doncaster, G., White, P., Svenson, R. & Page, R. (2021). The influence of fixture congestion on physical performance response to U23 soccer match play. Res Sports Med, 7, 1-5.

Fernandez-Navarro, J., Ruiz-Ruiz, C., Zubillaga, A. & Fradua, L. (2020). Tactical variables related to gaining the ball in advanced zones of the soccer pitch: analysis of differences among elite teams and the effect of contextual variables. Front Psychol, 10, 3040.

Fortin-Guichard, D., Huberts, I., Sanders, J., van Elk, R., Mann, D. & Savelsbergh, G. (2022). Predictors of selection into an elite youth level football academy: a longitudinal study. J Sports Sci, 40(9), 984-999.

Garcia-Rubio, J., Gomez, M., Lago-Penas, C. & Ibanez, S. (2015). Effect of match venue, scoring first and quality of opposition on match outcome at the UEFA Champions League. Int J Perform Anal Sport, 15(2), 527-539.

Gregson, W., Drust, B., Atkinson, G. & Di Salvo, V. (2010). Match to match variability of high-speed activities in premier league soccer. Int J Sports Med, 31(4), 237-242.

Gollan, S., Bellenger, C. & Norton, K. (2020). Contextual factors impact styles of play in the English Premier League. J Sports Sci Med, 19(1),78-83.

Goto, H. & Saward, C. (2019). The running and technical performance of U13 to U18 elite Japanese soccer players during match play. J Strength Cond Res, 34(6),1564-1573.

Hattersley, C., Wells, C., Blagrove, R., Trangmar, S. & Patterson, S. (2018). Impact of fixture congestion on indices of performance & recovery in youth soccer players. SPSR, 17, 1-4.

Hopkins, W., Marshall, S. & Batterham, A. (2009). Progressive statistics for studies in sports medicine and exercise science. Med Sci Sport Exerc, 41(1), 3-12.

Jennings, D., Cormack, S., Coutts, A., Boyd, L. & Aughey, R. (2010). Variability of GPS units for measuring distance in team sport movements. Int J Sports Physiol Perform, 5(4), 565-589.

Jiminez Sanchez, A. & Lavin, J. (2021). Home advantage in European soccer without crowd. Soccer & Society, 22(1), 152-165.

Johnson, R., Watsford, M., Kelly, S., Pine, M. & Spurrs, R. (2014). Validity and interunit reliability of 10Hz and 15Hz GPS for assessing athlete movement demands. J Strength Cond Res, 28(6), 1649-1655.

Julian, R., Page, R. & Harper, L. (2021). The effect of fixture congestion on performance during professional male soccer match play: a systematic critical review with meta-analysis. Sports Med, 51(2),255-273.

Lago, C., Casais, L., Dominguez, E. & Sampaio, J. (2010). The effects of situational variables on distance covered in professional soccer. Eur. J Sports Sci, 10(2), 103-109.

Lago, C. (2009). The influence of match location, quality of opposition and match status on possession strategies in professional association football. J Sports Sci, 27(13), 1463-1469.

Lago, C. & Martin, R. (2007). Determinants of possession of the ball in soccer. J Sports Sci, 25(9), 969-974.

Meylan, C., Cronin, J., Oliver, J. & Hughes, M. (2010). Talent identification in soccer; the role of maturity status on physical, physiological and technical characteristics. Int J Sports Sci Coach, 5(4), 571-592.

Modric, T., Malone, J., Versic, S., Andrezejewski, M., Chmura, P., Konefal, P. & Sekulic, D. (2022). The influence of physical performance on technical and tactical outcomes in the UEFA Champions League. BMC Sports Science, Medicine & Rehabilitation, 14, 179.

Modric, T., Versic, S., Stojanovic, M., Chmura, P., Andrzejewski, M., Konefal, M. & Sekulic, D. (2023). Factors affecting match running performance in elite soccer: analysis of UEFA Champions League matches. Biol Sport, 40(2), 409-416.

Mohr, M., Krustrup, P. & Bangsbo, J. (2003). Match performance of high standard soccer players with special reference to development of fatigue. J Sports Sci, 21(7), 519-528.

Nedelec, M., McCall, A., Carling, C., Le Gall, F., Berthoin, S. & Dupont, G. (2012). The influence of soccer playing actions on the recovery kinetics after a soccer match. J Strength Cond Res, 28(6), 1517-1523.

Osgnach, C., Poser, S., Bernandini, R., Rinaldo, R. & di Prampero, P. (2010). Energy cost and metabolic power in elite soccer; a new match analysis approach. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 42(1), 170-178.

Paraskevas, G., Smilios, I. & Hadjicharambous, M. (2020). Effect of opposition quality and match location on the positional demands of the 4-2-3-1 formation in elite soccer. J Exerc Sci Fit, 18(1), 40-45.

Ponce-Bordon, J., Diaz-Garcia, J., Lopez-Gajardo, M., Lobo-Trivino, D., Lopez del Campo, R., Resta, R. & Garcia-Calvo, T. (2021). The influence of time winning and time losing on position specific match physical demands in the top one Spanish soccer league. Sensors, 21(20).

Rampinini, E., Impellizzeri, F., Castagna, C., Coutts, A. & Wislof, U. (2009). Technical performance during soccer matches of the Italian Serie A league: effect of fatigue and fixture congestion. J Sci Med Sport, 12(1), 227-233.

Rampinini, E., Coutts, A., Castagna, C., Sassi, R. & Impellizzeri, F. (2007). Variation in top level soccer match performance. Int J Sports Med, 28(12), 1018-1024.

Rampinini, E., Alberti, G., Fiorenza, M., Riggio, M., Sassi, R., Borges, T. & Coutts, A. (2015). Accuracy of GPS devices for measuring high intensity running in field-based team sports. Int J Sports Med, 36(1), 49-53.

Reynolds, J., Connor, M., Jamil, M. & Beato, M. (2021). Quantifying and comparing the match demands of U18, U23 and 1st team English professional soccer players. Front Physiol, 12, 706451.

Rhodes, D., Valassakis, S., Bortnik, L., Eaves. R., Harper, D. & Alexander, J. (2021). The effect of high intensity accelerations and decelerations on match outcome of an elite English Two football team. Int J Environ Res & Public Health, 18(18), 9913.

Smalley, B., Bishop, C. & Maloney, S. (2022). "Small steps or giant leaps?". Comparing game demands of U23, U18, U16 English Academy soccer and their associations with speed and endurance. Int J Sports Sci & Coaching, 17(1), 134-142.

The Premier League. (2011). The Elite Player Performance Pathway. Retrieved from:

Varley, M., Gregson, W., McMillan. K., Bonanno, D., Stafford, K., Modonutti, M. & Di Salvo, V. (2017). Physical and technical performance of elite youth soccer players during international tournaments: influence of playing position and team success and opponent quality. Sci Med Football, 1(1), 18-29.

Viera, L., Carling, C., Barbieri, F., Aquino, R. & Santiago, P. (2019). Match running performance in young soccer players: a systematic review. Sports Med, 49(2), 289-318.

Waldron, M. & Murphy, A. (2013). A comparison of physical abilities and match performance characteristics among elite and sub-elite under 14 soccer players. Paedriatr Exerc Sci, 25(3), 423-434.

Windt, J., Hamilton, K., Cox, D., Zumbo, B. & Sporer, B. (2022). Capturing the "experts' eye": a perspective on developing a better understanding and implementation of subjective performance evaluations in team sports. Journal of Elite Sport Performance, 1(2), 1-8.

The effect of contextual variables on match running performance in a category 3, U18 English Academy soccer team



Statistics RUA



How to Cite

Barron, D., Yiannaki, C., Fry, J., & Atherton, J. (2023). The effect of contextual variables on match running performance in a category 3, U18 English Academy soccer team. Journal of Human Sport and Exercise, 19(1), 1–14.



Performance Analysis of Sport