What Soccer Position Runs The Most? (Stats & Facts Explain)

There's no question that soccer is a game that requires a lot of running. With such large fields and few breaks, soccer players must be in top form. But which position in soccer runs the most?

The midfield position is the position that runs the most in soccer. During a game, midfielders cover an average distance of 10,611 meters. Of these, 719 meters are being run at a high intensity, while 114 meters are spent sprinting. Most of the remaining distance is covered by running, jogging, and walking.

Now you know that midfielders run more than any other position in a game of soccer, but why is this the case? And what other positions run the most? I will answer all these questions and more in this article!

Which Soccer Position Runs The Most?

Apart from the goalkeeper, every player on the field is expected to run for nearly the entirety of a ninety-minute game.

With that being said, some positions cover more ground than others. So what soccer position runs the most?

The midfield position is the position that covers the most ground during a game. Therefore, midfielders run more than any other position in a game of soccer.

This probably won't come as a big surprise for big soccer fans and people who play the game.

Although other positions such as forwards and wingers appear to run a lot during a game, the midfield players never stop.

You may have heard a group of midfielders referred to as the team's engine room. They are called this because of the amount of passing, defending, and running they are expected to do throughout a game.

Essentially, the midfield players are the ones who keep the team moving—both in defense and attack.

When looking at the players who covered the most distance during the 2021/22 Premier League season, it was midfielders who dominated the conversation.

Southampton's James Ward-Prowse plays in central midfield and covered more ground than any other Premier League player in the 2021/22 season.

Ward-Prowse covered a total of 417km (259 miles) in 36 games for his club. This is the equivalent of running 10 marathons.

Just behind Ward-Prowse for distance covered was West Ham's Tomas Soucek and Brentford's Christian Norgaard; both are midfielder players.

How much does a midfielder run in soccer?

A 2021 study covering 31 top leagues across Europe and America determined that midfielders cover an average distance of 10,611 meters (11,604 yards) during a game of soccer.

Of those 10,611 meters (11,604 yards), 719 meters (786 yards) were covered while running at a high intensity, while 114 meters (124 yards) were covered while sprinting.

The reason that only 7.85% of a midfielder's running time is spent on high-intensity running or sprinting is because of the sheer amount of running they have to do during a game.

According to the same study, there wasn't another position that could match the total distance covered by midfield players.

Why does a midfielder run the most?

So we now know that midfielders run more than any other position, but why is this the case?

If you watch a soccer game, you will notice that most of the game is played in the center of the field. This means that midfielders are effectively in play more than any other position.

A game of soccer is very tactical, and much of the game is just the attacking team trying to find a way of breaking down the team who is defending.

This results in most of the game being played in midfield, so midfield players have more to do than any other position. This includes both defending and attacking.

Let's say your team is in possession of the ball and is attacking. The defenders will run very little or not at all; they simply hold their position.

During this time, the midfielders will be running around trying to help the attack find a way through the opposition's defense.

Now let's say your team is defending.

In this instance, the attacking players will be running very little; they simply stay onside and wait for their chance to attack down the other end.

During this time, midfielders will be running around trying to intercept the opposition's attacking passes and giving support to the defenders.

With these examples, you can see why midfielders are running more than any other position during a game.

Do all midfield positions run the same amount?

When we talk about midfielders running the most, we include central, defensive, and attacking midfielders.

But are there any differences between which midfield positions in soccer run the most?

Unfortunately, there isn't a substantial amount of data or statistics to definitively prove which of these positions are running the most.

However, we can use data from elsewhere to make a strong assumption.

There is much to be said for the fact that a defensive midfielder will run less than a central or attacking midfielder.

This is because a defensive midfielder shares similar duties to a center back.

Center backs are the soccer position that runs the least (outside of goalkeepers). So it stands to reason that defensive midfielders will follow a similar pattern.

Other data we can look at is player ages. The older a player gets, the less running is usually expected from them.

With this in mind, you'll often see older midfielders drop into the defensive midfield role. This is, in theory, so that they can run less in a game.

Manchester City's Fernandinho is an excellent example of this, as he played in the defensive midfield position until he was 37.

The opposite can be said for attacking midfielders (CAM). This position is rarely held by older players. Potentially due to there being more running involved.

Having said that, it's very important to consider individual teams' tactics.

Teams such as Manchester City, Liverpool, Real Madrid, and PSG will only utilize one defensive midfielder, with two central midfielders playing just ahead.

This means the defensive midfielder can sit back and focus on his defensive positioning while the two central midfielders do most of the running.

This backs up the argument that defensive midfielders run less.

However, some teams play a bit more defensively and use a tactic called the double pivot.

This is when a team uses two defensive midfielders with either one central or attacking midfielder just ahead of them.

In this instance, there's no doubt that the two defensive midfielders will be doing the most running. This is because they are tasked with covering the back line and creating for the attacking players ahead of them.

So in this particular instance, it's actually the defensive midfielders who are doing the most running.

As you can see, there isn't a definitive answer as to which midfield position is actually doing the most running. This is because it can change depending on the team's tactics.

Other Positions in Soccer That Run a Lot

Now that you know exactly how and why midfielders run the most in soccer, let's take a quick look at other positions that also run the most.

Winger:

The position that runs the second most in soccer is definitely the winger.

Based on the same study used for the midfield position, we can determine that wingers cover an average of 10,253 meters (11,212 yards) per soccer game.

Of those 10,253 meters (11,212 yards), 932 meters (1,019 yards) were covered while running at a high intensity, while 211 meters (230 yards) were covered while sprinting.

This means that wingers spend 11.14% of their runs either sprinting or at high intensity.

Although wingers don't run as much as midfielders, no other position can match this high-intensity running and sprinting percentage.

Wingers run so much because it's their job to run at the opposition's defense.

They also spend a lot of time running up and down the wings. This is, of course, why they are called wingers.

A winger will always look to try and run as soon as they have the ball.

However, when their team is out of possession, there isn't too much need for a winger to run unless their coach requires them to help defend.

Center forward / Striker:

The center forward (or striker) is the position that runs the third most in soccer.

Once again, we'll look at the study and find that center forwards cover an average of 9,945 meters (10,875 yards) per game.

Of those 9,945 meters (10,875 yards), 847 meters (926 yards) are covered while running at high intensity, while 191 meters (208 yards) are covered while sprinting.

This means 10.43% of a center forward's running is done at high intensity or sprinting.

This percentage is lower than that of a winger but higher than that of a midfielder.

Once again, it's worth remembering that midfielders cannot run as much at such a high intensity due to how much running they have to do overall.

The reason that center forwards do the third-most amount of running is due to how often they need to run towards the goal.

Center forwards will often quietly walk around until they see an opportunity to strike.

As soon as they spot a gap in the defense or a teammate plays a killer pass, the forward will run into position to try and score.

Some forwards also like to run at the defense with the ball. This is why forwards are the third-highest runners behind midfielders and wingers.

Conclusion

To summarize, there's no doubt that midfielders spend more time running in a game of soccer than any other position. So if you're thinking of becoming a midfielder, be prepared to run a lot! 

This is because midfielders are expected to help with both defense and attack, and the majority of a soccer game is played in the center of the pitch.

Other positions that run the most are wingers and center forwards.

Both these positions spend more time running at a high intensity and sprinting, but neither position covers as much ground as midfielders.

(You can find the study I used for this article here)

James Miller

Soccer has been my passion since I was a kid. After my own career, I became a coach, something I have been doing for 15 years now. Sharing my knowledge about soccer is what I love most. So I hope you can appreciate my articles.
Published: 
July 29, 2022
Published: July 29, 2022