How Fast Could the Average World Cup Player Run A Mile?

Of all the most popular sports, I have the most respect for soccer. According to STATS, a company that uses a motion-tracking technology called SportVu to collect detailed statistics on players from a number of sports, football cornerbacks and wide receivers average about 1.25 miles a game, basketball players only slightly more, and tennis players about 3-5 miles in a three set match, the average soccer player (not including the goalie) averages about 7 miles a game, and some players up to 9.5 miles. That includes a lot of sprinting, which is an impressive feat of fitness and athleticism even without considering everything else that goes into the game.

So the question is, how fast can the average player currently competing in the World Cup run? To keep things simple, let's pick a mile as the distance. My friend Jina, rabid soccer fan and expert, pointed out that 200 meters would be more relevant as it would better reflect who can best sprint half a footie pitch. But PBs might be quickly shattered on the field if a Louis Saurez was in hot pursuit, teeth bared! She's right, but given the impressive mileage they cover, I still think it's an interesting exercise to guess what they could do over a mile. At least to us runners!

This topic has come up now and then on message boards, and I have seen mostly estimates from 4:30 to 4:50. Personally I think that's pretty conservative. Considering how many athletes in the world play soccer, it's very likely that a good number of them would easily be world class track athletes were they to go in that direction. If all the World Cup players competed in a mile race on a track before any of the games began, what could they run?

Recently, the adidas Boy's Dream Mile was won by 17 year-old junior Grant Fisher from Michigan. Grant splits his time between soccer and running, and runs only 40 miles a week. Yet he dusted the best runners in the nation with a 58 second last lap, winning in 4:02.02, the fifth-fastest time ever by an 11th grader. It appears that his soccer schedule has not held him back. He is obviously exceptionally talented to the point that he could become the next big U.S. running star... unless he chooses to focus on soccer. Without specific training for the event, chances are none of the soccer players would be able to break 4:00 at the moment. A sub-4:00 mile is no joke, and only a handful of the best world class runners break that barrier every time. But I would guess that there would be quite a few who would run between 4:10 and 4:30. My guess is the average for all of them, not counting goalies (sorry goalies, you just don't run enough!) would be about 4:25. That's fast, but not unbelievable. It's not quite fast enough to score points in the average high school state meet, though 4:24 has remained the record at my high school since about 1981. Of course we'll never know unless they tried it.

How fast do you think they can run?

Tony has been a runner for over three decades, competing in cross country and track in high school and college, and road races for various clubs. He's served as team captain for several Corporate Challenge teams at YMCA of the USA, and has informally coached many friends over the years.

Tags: This Week in Runners, Y, YMCA, Running, soccer, mile, how fast can soccer players run, World Cup

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