Predicting the Receivers of Football Passes

  • Heng LiEmail author
  • Zhiying Zhang
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 11330)


Football (or association football) is a highly-collaborative team sport. Passing the ball to the right player is essential for winning a football game. Anticipating the receiver of a pass can help football players build better collaborations and help coaches make informed tactical decisions. In this work, we analyze a public dataset that contains 12,124 passes performed by professional football players. We extract five dimensions of features from the dataset and build a learning to rank model to predict the receiver of a pass. Our model’s first, top-3 and top-5 guesses find the correct receiver of a pass with an accuracy of 50%, 84%, and 94%, respectively, when we exclude false passes, which outperforms three baseline models that we use to rank the candidate receivers of a pass. The features that capture the positions of the candidate receivers play the most important roles in explaining the receiver of a pass.


Football pass prediction Learning to rank LambdaMART Gradient boosting decision tree LightGBM 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of ComputingQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada
  2. 2.MicrosoftBellevueUSA

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