Bergkamp, T. L. G., Frencken, W. G. P., Niessen, A. S. M., Meijer, R. R. & Hartigh, Ruud. J. R. den. How soccer scouts identify talented players. Eur J Sport Sci 22, 994-1004 (2022).
Scouts of soccer clubs are often the ﬁrst to identify talented players. However, there is a lack of research on how these scouts assess and predict overall soccer performance. Therefore, we conducted a large-scaled study to examine the process of talent identiﬁcation among 125 soccer scouts. Through an online self-report questionnaire, scouts were asked about (1) the players’ age at which they can predict players’ soccer performance, (2) the attributes they consider relevant, and (3) the extent to which they predict performance in a structured manner. The most important results are as follows. First, scouts who observed 12-year-old and younger players perceived they could predict at older ages (13.6 years old, on average) whether a player has the potential to become a professional soccer player. This suggests that scouts are aware of the idea that early indicators of later performance are often lacking, yet do advise on selection of players at younger ages. Second, when identifying talented players, scouts considered more easily observable attributes, such as technical attributes. However, scouts described these often in a broad sense rather than in terms of speciﬁc predictors of future performance. Finally, scouts reported that they assess attributes of players in a structured manner. Yet, they ultimately based their prediction (i.e. ﬁnal score) on an intuitive integration of diﬀerent performance attributes, which is a suboptimal strategy according to existing literature. Taken together, these outcomes provide speciﬁc clues to improve the reliability and validity of the scouting process.