It's calling itself the first "Smart League." That moniker has nothing to do with the IQs of the players in Major League Soccer but rather refers to an announcement MLS just made that starting with the 2013 season, every player and every team will be using the Adidas MiCoach Elite System.
Being shown off for the first time at this year's All Star game, it's essentially a whole bunch of sensors jammed into a small, plastic casing and worn under the players' uniforms to pull in all sorts of real-time data on what they're doing and how their bodies are performing during practice and games. The information is then sent instantly to an iPad for coaches to use as an extra tool.
“That small device tracks what the player does on the field: Acceleration, speed, distance, whatever we want to measure," said Paul Gaudio of Adidas. "And it communicates to the base station that sits on the sideline and that lets you understand how that player can respond to the work. Should they come off the field, can you leave them out there a little bit longer, are they fatiguing?”
In addition to helping coaches make proper substitutes, it can also help show where a player might continually hit a wall during a game in order to help trainers devise a workout or drill to help him get past that roadblock.
“Maybe within a week, instead of saying over the next three weeks, I can get better just by pushing myself," said John Harkes, a former professional soccer player. "Well now you have something like a tool that says push yourself here, do this, you're not sprinting here."
And though initially the data collected here will not be made available to the fans, developers say that is a goal in the future so that you, for example, could be watching a shootout and know how nervous the goalie is based on his heart rate.
“We'll find ways to get that information out to consumers and get it out to the press," said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. "Some of it is proprietary and we'll protect the privacy of the player but for the most part our players and teams and coaches, Adidas are all looking to do things together that can grow the game."
The MLS also says it does fully expect other leagues to watch the 2013 season closely to determine whether this may make sense for other sports as well.