KDD Papers

“Not All Passes Are Created Equal:” Objectively Measuring the Risk and Reward of Passes in Soccer from Tracking Dat

Paul Power (STATS LLC);Héctor Ruiz (STATS);Patrick Lucey (STATS);Xinyu Wei (STATS)


In soccer, the most frequent event that occurs is a pass. For a trained eye, there are a myriad of adjectives which could describe this event (e.g., “majestic pass”, “conservative” to “poor-ball”). However, as these events are needed to be coded live and in real-time (most often by human annotators), the current method of grading passes is restricted to the binary labels 0 (unsuccessful) or 1 (successful). Obviously, this is sub-optimal because the quality of a pass needs to be measured on a continuous spectrum (i.e., 0 → 100%) and not a binary value. Additionally, a pass can be measured across multiple dimensions, namely: i)risk –the likelihood of executing a pass in a given situation, and ii)reward –the likelihood of a pass creating a chance. In this paper, we show how we estimate both the risk and reward of a pass across two seasons of tracking data captured from a recent professional soccer league with state-of the-art performance, then show case various use cases of our deployed passing system.