To test the interchangeability of 2 match-analysis approaches for external-load detection considering arbitrary selected speeds and metabolic power (MP) thresholds in male top-level soccer.
Data analyses were performed considering match physical performance of 60 matches (1200 player cases) of randomly selected Spanish, German, and English first-division championship matches (2013–14 season). Match analysis was performed with a validated semiautomated multicamera system operating at 25 Hz.
During a match, players covered 10,673 ± 348 m, of which 1778 ± 208 m and 2759 ± 241 m were performed at high intensity, as measured using speed (≥16 km/h, HI) and metabolic power (≥20 W/kg, MPHI) notations. High-intensity notations were nearly perfectly associated (r = .93, P < .0001). A huge method bias (980.63 ± 87.82 m, d = 11.67) was found when considering MPHI and HI. Very large correlations were found between match total distance covered and MPHI (r = .84, P < .0001) and HI (r = .74, P < .0001). Player high-intensity decelerations (≥–2 m/s2) were very largely associated with MPHI (r = .73, P < .0001).
The speed and MP methods are highly interchangeable at relative level (magnitude rank) but not absolute level (measure magnitude). The 2 physical match-analysis methods can be independently used to track match external load in elite-level players. However, match-analyst decisions must be based on use of a single method to avoid bias in external-load determination.