Soccer’s presence at NESSIS 2015

The poster and talk abstracts for the 2015 NESSIS — the New England Symposium on Statistics in Sports — are now available ahead of the event which will be held at Harvard on 26 September.  The conference is known for its presentations that advanced statistical and data science methods to problems in a diverse collection of sports.  Most of the work covers on-field performance but there are talks and posters on financial aspects of sport.  NESSIS draws a small fraction of the crowds that attend MIT SSAC, but the attendees include team officials from the major sports leagues in North America and beyond.

The 2011 NESSIS was seen as a breakout year for soccer analytics at the conference thanks to StatDNA’s analytics contest.  This year’s conference appears to have the potential to approach that year.  There are a couple of talks and poster displays on topics in soccer analytics, but in my opinion the posters may be more impactful than the scheduled talks.  Both poster presentations present research by Luke Bornn, a statistics professor at Harvard, and his students on analysis of player tracking data to assess optimal defensive strategies and attacking opportunities created by passes. Luke and Kirk Goldsberry (and their students) have conducted similar work that quantified defensive performance and distributed point value of basketball players, which earned them a Research Paper award at the recent SSAC.  The research presented in these poster presentations appears to be in the same class.

As for the talks, there is a presentation by Julian Guyon of Bloomberg that presents an alternative procedure for the World Cup finals draw that preserves geographical constraints and results in more balanced groups.  The second soccer-related presentation is by Frank Silva at UNC-Chapel Hill (who I believe I met at the Pre-SSAC Soccer Analytics event this year) that presents a hierarchical model that combines weighted goals with expected goal value in order to distinguish contributions of players to the points earned by a team.

It looks like a very informative conference; unfortunately I will still be out of the country, but registration is still open (and cheap!) so get there if you can.