MLS All-Star Game will be a 'smart game'

Next year, all 19 MLS teams will utilize the data that makes Wednesday's game a "smart game." Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

During Wednesday night’s game between the MLS All-Stars and Chelsea FC (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2), every precise detail of every player will be digitally tracked. Speed, acceleration, field position -- even heart rate -- will be instantly available to coaches, players and trainers throughout the match.

The technology, achieved through adidas’ miCoach system, will deliver soccer’s first-ever “smart game,” a precursor to next season when all 19 MLS clubs will use the data-tracking technology in every game.

The system uses a small data chip embedded into each player’s uniform between the shoulder blades. The chip transmits more than 200 data points per second from each player to a centralized computer, and the information becomes almost instantly available on each coach’s iPad.

It has the potential to change the way coaches and trainers monitor player performance, fatigue and workload.

“I think it’s going to get so much bigger and more interesting,” says Darryl Gehly, president of Roundarch Isobar, a digital agency that helped adidas build the system. “These guys are on the cutting edge of it -- they’re the leaders of it -- and it’s going to grow real fast.”

In the past, coaches made substitutions based on body language and their feel for the game. But this tracking technology will provide detailed information on the minutiae of a player’s body -- indicators such as heart rate, stress levels and a player’s speed -- compared to earlier in the game. Coaches also can view a team-wide look at this data, potentially adjusting a team’s strategy because, say, the defenders are more exhausted than the midfielders.

On a larger scale, the tracking information can provide coaches and scouts with information about a player’s athleticism that was previously measured by whistles and stopwatches. They can learn which players are the fastest, the quickest and the strongest, with or without the ball. They can learn which goalies have a farther reach, or which player truly has the strongest leg during a game.

And through this initiative, we’re all getting smarter about soccer.