Background: Decision-making in soccer has repercussions and depends on the environment of training or competition. The demands on the players can reveal if the decision-making is similar or different from that required during competition. Objectives: The aim of this study was to assess the physical and physiological responses of players in training matches (TM) and official competition matches (CM) according to the playing position (external defenders, internal defenders, midfielders, and forwards/extremes). Methods: Twenty semi-professional male soccer players and 10 CM (n = 40) and 10 TM (n = 40) were studied using global positioning system technology, and paired and one-way ANOVA tests were carried out to compare physical (distances and number of sprints) and physiological (heart rates) responses with the factors a) match environments (TM and CM) and b) the playing position, respectively. Results: The results revealed that during CM, players covered higher total distance, partial distances, and sprints at different speeds (0-21 km/h) and produced higher physiological responses. Midfielders covered the greatest total distance in both TM (7227.6 m) and CM (11,225.9 m), in comparison to the other playing positions. However, forwards and extremes spent more time (56.8% of the CM [d = 0.78]) at 76% to 84% of their maximal heart rates. Conclusions: First, the physical and physiological responses in TM were significantly lower than in CM. Second, these responses were different according to the playing position, so this study was able to verify the exact amount of variation between the load produced in TM and CM. These results will help the coach and technical staff to design training tasks to complement the responses found in TM.
Keywords: competition; match; physical responses; physiological responses; soccer; training.