Soccer is the most watched sporting event in the world. Some 3.2 billion people watched the Brazil-hosted World Cup in 2014, according to Harry Kettle’s “7 Things the World Cup and the Super Bowl Have in Common” on The18.com, an online resource for all things soccer. By contrast, only 111 million viewers tuned in to the 2017 Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons.
Students pursuing a master’s in coaching degree, however, will probably be most interested in the training that goes into preparing soccer teams for international FIFA competition. The athletic coaching taking place behind each Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup game yields many of the fittest, best-conditioned athletes in the world.
Four-Year World Cup Logistics
Almost every nation maintains a FIFA team in hopes of winning the coveted World Cup. Four years ago, for example, 204 countries competed for a mere 31 spots (plus the hosting nation’s team) in the schedule of final games, according to Evan Kiesow’s The18.com article, “Why Is the World Cup Every 4 Years? A Look at the History.”
The road to the World Cup is a rigorous process that takes nearly two years and includes qualifying tournaments, preliminary matches, and eliminations. Each World Cup region, or confederation — Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Central America and the Caribbean, Oceania, and South America — has its own system for choosing teams. If all qualifying rounds were shoehorned into a single year, players would be at a much higher risk of burnout or injury. Soccer players may be in excellent physical condition, but they are not invincible and require breaks between games to adequately recover.
Because of the enormous fanbase, the host nation’s efforts to build stadiums and related infrastructure such as hotels and eateries can run into the billions of dollars, Kettle notes.
Apart from the countless qualifying rounds over the span of 3+ years, the World Cup includes a total of 64 matches between the 32 qualified finalists, according to Joe Robison, in his MyBucketListEvents.com article, “The Ultimate Guide to the World Cup.” A women’s World Cup is also held every four years, but on a different schedule so the two tournaments can be slightly more manageable.
But perhaps the most compelling reason for the four-year-long seasons in FIFA soccer is the time, energy, and training that goes into assembling a worthy team. To be sure their teams are ready for high-level competition, coaches have to be concerned with players’ overall health as well as training strategy.
The Immense Training Regimen of FIFA Teams
Part of a team’s strength is determined by the players’ adaptability to different climates. The U.S. team, for example, is composed of players who are used to participating in a variety of climates, from desert to subtropical southern Texas to the northern states. Noah Davis highlights this strength in his Men’s Journal article, “Inside the U.S. Team’s World Cup Training Regimen.” The Russian team, however, would find the heat of Amazonian South America oppressive and nearly unbearable.
Adaptability to a wide variety of climates and temperatures is only a small part of a FIFA team’s strengths. Intensive, repetitive drills are also carefully calculated to maximize player and team improvement.
According to Davis, the U.S. team practices with 5-on-5 games on a grid measuring about 40 yards by 30 yards. Players sprint non-stop, switching regularly between offensive and defensive positions. They are allowed to touch the ball only three times before passing it to a teammate. This technique conditions players to improve their speed on the field and remain in constant movement at all times.
Nutrition is often overlooked in world-class athletic training programs. Lots of water, whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, and very little sugar are essential to peak performance on the field.
GuavaPass.com’s Skyler Hopkins highlights the nutritional and workout regimens of FIFA superstars Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in “The Fitness Routines of the Top World Cup Players.”
“On top of his regular training, [Portuguese legend Ronaldo] trains five days a week for three to four hours a day,” explains Hopkins. “… His routine focuses on high-intensity exercises, with a particular emphasis on cardiovascular training and gym work. These help him improve his endurance and stamina alongside his overall body strength, enabling him to pull off amazing athletic feats.”
Professional FIFA training schedules and routines are among the most vigorous and intense of all athletic training regimens. Considering the training requirements and the large number of qualifying rounds necessary to determine the final teams, the four-year gap between World Cups makes sense.
Ohio University’s Online Master of Coaching Education Program
Current and future coaches can learn a valuable lesson about their profession by studying the training routines of FIFA teams around the world. Only the best players make it to the World Cup, and only by adhering to physically and mentally demanding training schedules.
Ohio University excels at preparing coaches for positions ranging from middle school athletic departments to college. Graduates of OHIO’s master’s in coaching education program learn to improve athletic performance among athletes, as well as the technical and leadership skills required to coach a sports team.
MCE coursework includes management, leadership, and finance for coaches; injury prevention; performance and conditioning; ethics and diversity; and risk management. For more information on OHIO’s online coaching education master’s degree, contact Ohio University today.
7 Things the World Cup and the Super Bowl Have in Common – The18.com
Why is the World Cup Every Four Years? – The18.com
The Ultimate Guide to the World Cup – MyBucketListEvents.com
Inside the U.S. Team’s World Cup Training Regimen – MensJournal.com
The Fitness Routines of the Top World Cup Players – GuavaPass.com