Purpose: To investigate the relationship between physical fitness and team success in soccer, and to test for differences in physical fitness between different player positions.
Methods: Participants were 306 male soccer players from 17 teams in the two highest divisions in Iceland. Just before the start of the 1999 soccer season, the following variables were tested: height and weight, body composition, flexibility, leg extension power, jump height, and peak O2 uptake. Injuries and player participation in matches and training were recorded through the 4-month competitive season. Team average physical fitness was compared with team success (final league standing) using a linear regression model. Physical fitness was also compared between players in different playing positions.
Results: A significant relationship was found between team average jump height (countermovement jump and standing jump) and team success (P = 0.009 and P = 0.012, respectively). The same trend was also found for leg extension power (P = 0.097), body composition (% body fat, P = 0.07), and the total number of injury days per team (P = 0.09). Goalkeepers demonstrated different fitness characteristics from outfield players. They were taller and heavier, more flexible in hip extension and knee flexion, and had higher leg extension power and a lower peak O2 uptake. However, only minor differences were observed between defenders, midfield players, and attackers.
Conclusion: Coaches and medical support teams should pay more attention to jump and power training, as well as preventive measures and adequate rehabilitation of previous injuries to increase team success.