This year's World Cup players (minus goalkeepers) will average around seven miles of running each game, and as many as 10. But the amount you run has more to do with skill than it does with overall fitness, and not in the way you might think.
In the 2010 World Cup, the USMNT's Michael Bradley led the tournament in distance covered over a period of four games with over 30 miles. Teammate Landon Donovan was second. 'Merica!
But not so fast. The reason they were running around so much is because they didn't have the technique to play any differently.
"The U.S. generally is considered to be one of the most fit teams in the world," Noah Davis, writing for the Pacific Standard, says. "They are not, however, considered to be one of the best."
He contrasts this with a recent study from the University of Sunderland, which discovered that English Premier League players run less than athletes from the lower Championship and League One levels.
Why? Like the old men at your local racquetball courts, Premier League players had learned to work smarter, not harder.
"Those playing in the Premier League performed a greater number of passes and successful passes," the university study found. Furthermore, athletes held the ball longer and more often, providing further evidence that "players at a higher standard have a far higher level of technical skill, and do not use the long ball tactic of 'kick and rush'" of the lesser leagues.
Soccer players are consistently recorded as running the most of any sport other that running. But soccer is not called "The Fittest Game" or "The Hardest Game"; The Beautiful Game is finesse, and its greatest secret is that the better you become, the less you run.
[Photo: AP Images]