Myerscough research publishes latest findings

Wednesday 12 Jul 2017

Workload Demands of Match Play and Small-sided Games in Soccer

The demands of playing small sided games (SSG), which are commonly used as a training method for professional soccer players, may have been underestimated, new research shows.

An article published in the Journal of Human Kinetics [May 2017] has indicated that SSGs elicit greater workload demands on the soccer player when compared with playing a full match game. Furthermore, there was also a greater amount of player movements (measured in various planes) identified during small sided games when compared to match play.

The researchers involved in the project, which was a collaborative venture between Myerscough College, the University of Central Lancashire, and Coimbra University, aimed to generate a greater understanding of the movements performed by different soccer training methods and how this impacts on the types of activities that elite soccer players should undertaking during their practice sessions.

The researchers compared player workload during soccer match play (11v11) with small sided games (2 vs 2, 3 vs 3, and 4 vs 4) using using GPS hardware (Catapult minimax X3). Analysis was carried out using 40 trained high level soccer players who took part in the a variety of match and SSGs activities.

Overall, SSGs elicited a much greater impact on player workload than any of the matches played. More specifically, it was those SSGs with fewest players that elicited the greatest demands on players, when compared with formats of a greater number of players. It is argued this may be due to the reduction in individual technical demands when the number of players increases, whereas fewer players and smaller pitch sizes elicit higher external loads on players.

Dr Barron, from the Centre for Research in Sports Performance, Myerscough College, said: “This is the first time that a detailed analyses regarding the mechanical stress imposed on soccer players during small sided games has been undertaken, having implications for the way that soccer training is delivered.

“The take home message is that small sided games may provide a high density type training stimulus, by imposing relative player demands of acceleration and deceleration activities in excess of those experienced during match play.’’

Dr Barron added: “These results indicate soccer coaches should carefully consider the scheduling of small sided games, particularly in the lead up to competitive fixtures and during an early pre-season, when players may not necessarily be conditioned to the high workload demands.’’

Corresponding Authors

Dr David J Barron                                                              Email:

Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Physiology - Centre for Research in Sports Performance

Dr John Fry         Twitter: @johnfry12                       Email:

Lead Researcher - Centre for Research in Sports Performance

Other Authors

Mathew Beenham, Howard H. Hurst, Antonio Figueirdo, Steve Atkins

Scientific journal

Journal of Human Kinetics – 5yr Impact factor: 1.014 – DOI: XXX

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