This study assessed the relationship between peak match speed (PMS) and maximal sprinting speed (MSS) in regard to age and playing positions. MSS and absolute PMS (PMSAbs) were collected from 180 male youth soccer players (U13–U17, 15.0 ± 1.2 y, 161.5 ± 9.2 cm, and 48.3 ± 8.7 kg). The fastest 10-m split over a 40-m sprint was used to determine MSS. PMSAbs was recorded using a global positioning system and was also expressed as a percentage of MSS (PMSRel). Sprint data were compared between age groups and between playing positions. Results showed that regardless of age and playing positions, faster players were likely to reach higher PMSAbs and possibly lower PMSRel. Despite a lower PMSAbs than in older groups (eg, 23.4 ± 1.8 vs 26.8 ± 1.9 km/h for U13 and U17, respectively, ES = 1.9 90%, confidence limits [1.6;2.1]), younger players reached a greater PMSRel (92.0% ± 6.3% vs. 87.2% ± 5.7% for U13 and U17, respectively, ES = –0.8 90% CL [–1.0;–0.5]). Playing position also affected PMSAbs and PMSRel, as strikers were likely to reach higher PMSAbs (eg, 27.0 ± 2.7 vs 23.6 ± 2.2 km/h for strikers and central midfielders, respectively, ES = 2.0 [1.7;2.2]) and PMSRel (eg, 93.6% ± 5.2% vs 85.3% ± 6.5% for strikers and central midfielders, respectively, ES = 1.0 [0.7;1.3]) than all other positions. The findings confirm that age and playing position affect the absolute and relative intensity of speed-related actions during matches.
The authors are with the Football Performance and Science Dept, Aspire, Academy for Sports Excellence, Doha, Qatar.