The State of Soccer Technology and Innovation – Ravi Ramineni, Seattle Sounders

(Logos courtesy of SportTechie and N3XT Sports, photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images)

During the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, SportTechie and N3XT Sports are surveying key personnel at major soccer clubs around the world to understand the current state of soccer technology and innovation. (Previous: Agustín Lleida, CF Pachuca)

Ravi Ramineni is the director of soccer analytics for the Seattle Sounders. He grew up in Southern India, but moved to Redmond, Wash., in 2007 to work within Microsoft’s Bing search engine group. After leaving the software giant in 2012, he turned his passion for soccer into a full-time career with the Sounders. Now he helps the team’s GM and scouting department use data to make decisions related to player acquisition and manage the salary cap, as well as assisting the coaching staff with analysis of matches and opponents.

For the past six years, Ramineni has played a critical role in creating and evolving his club’s data analytics strategy. The Seattle Sounders, which compete in Major League Soccer‘s Western Conference, played their inaugural season in 2009. The Sounders have qualified for the MLS postseason every year, and won the MLS Cup in 2016. The club has also won the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup four times, and has competed in the CONCAFAF Champions League five times.

Ramineni acknowledges the major strides that have been made in the use of tracking technology since he joined the industry. “GPS tracking helped improve and optimize training to have the players in best shape for matches, and manage load to help reduce incidence of soft-tissue non-contact injuries,” Ramineni explained. “Optical tracking data in games has helped enabled soccer analytics to go past being just event-based. A soccer player is in contact with the ball on average less than three minutes per match. There is a lot going on off the ball and optical tracking data helps us dig deeper.”

The major barriers that Ramineni sees for soccer technology are both financial- and personnel-related. He believes the cost of many technologies are “still too high for mid- and low-level clubs and leagues.” Additionally, “most teams still don’t have the manpower with the appropriate skill-sets to mine the large amounts of data generated by optical tracking.”

Ramineni believes that tracking technologies will be used more and more within sports. As the data from them becomes more precise, it will be used “to power Augmented Reality experiences which will enhance the experience for coaches as well as players.” According to Ramineni, an example of this that could significantly help youth coaching could be where “instead of showing a wide-angle video of what happened on a play, players will be able to “re-live” the play through AR and explain better what they saw and how they made the decision they made in a game.”

Finally, he foresees an increased emphasis on these technologies. “To manage and draw insights out of the new data, teams will enhance their investments into analytics. More coaches will be more data and tech literate. The profiles of a head coach and assistant coaches in 2030 will be very different from what they are now.”