Soccer Ranking, Champions league & Europa League

Hello everybody, my name is Mateus Maccieri ’19 and I am spending this beautiful summer working with Dr. Wessell, from the Mathematics department, on a project focused on ranking European club  soccer teams. We mainly focused on the teams that participate in the two main international competitions: the Champions League and the Europa League. When I first talked to Dr. Wessell about this project, I explained him my recent decision in pursuing a Computer Science degree and, if it was possible, to work on a project that would combine both Mathematics and my new major. Intrigued by this idea, he gave me the option to choose between one out of two programming languages to use for the whole ranking project. the first, called R, was free, the other, called MATLAB, was not free, so I decided to use the free one of course since both were used for numerical computing and since Dr. Wessell had a lot of knowledge in MATLAB, but did not have much experience with R, so we were able to learn the language throughout with the project.

Dr. Wessell and I always followed the two main international European competitions. He is an avid Tottenham Hotspur fan, a team from London, and I grew up watching soccer both in Italy and Brazil, two countries where it is considered the number one national sport. As a result, this became the perfect topic for the project since we both had lots of knowledge regarding the teams that participated in the two tournaments mentioned before.

A typical day in the lab consisted of showing up every morning in Dr. Wessell office, located in Glatfelter, talking about the weird rankings I would obtain when trying to run my code, making fun of the teams that were oddly placed in my tables (sometimes a team ranked 200 out of 232 teams would show up on my top 10 list), and, finally, writing the code for the different ranking methods we decided to use. I obtained my ranking methods from a book Dr. Wessell gave me for the summer, called Who’s #1? by Amy N. Langville and Carl D. Meyer. In this book, almost every chapter represented a ranking method used for different activities, such as football, chess, etc. my goal consisted on taking the mathematical algorithms for each method, writing its code in R, and implementing it into my soccer rankings. The methods I used were Massey, Colley, Elo, Keener, and Markov, all named after the person who created them. They all have different characteristics, some focus more on the strength of each team, others would only use the outcome of the games played with no regards of the teams that played, and so on. Most of these rankings involved applications of linear algebra.  My goal at the end of the research would be to compare and contrast each method to the UEFA coefficient method, which is calculated by UEFA, the organization the administers soccer within Europe, and see if the rankings I am using are more efficient or “fair” in seeding the teams in each competition.

Unfortunately, this is my last week of research, and I am finally going back home to Italy this Sunday. I did enjoy how different and quiet the Gettysburg campus was these last 8 weeks, I never felt stressed at all working on my project and I truly believe it was a great experience for me and for my future.


Mateus Maccieri


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