If you’ve been watching the Men’s World Cup 2022 over the past few weeks, you may have noticed some players wearing an unusual accessory under their shirts. When players take off their jerseys at the end of a game or to celebrate a goal (South Korea’s Hwang Hee-chan, above, after scoring against Portugal on Dec. 2), some wear what appear to be sports bras underneath s things. As it turns out, men’s soccer players have been wearing these sports bra-like braces for the past few years, but as more attention was paid to the sport during the World Cup, many viewers saw them for the first time and were (understandably) a bit confused. So what exactly are the “sports bras” under their jerseys?
It’s not meant to support the pecs or prevent chafing (although, hey, maybe it helps?). The “sports bra” worn by male soccer players is actually a GPS tracking vest. There is a tracker on the back of each vest that provides coaches, trainers and players with a wealth of data to learn from. According to Catapult Sports, which sells them, GPS vests measure an athlete’s workload and effort, including “total distance, top speed, number of sprints, sprint distance, power, load, [and] strength. “
In other words, after a tough game or practice, the coaching staff can immediately see how much effort their players have put in and adjust follow-up training sessions or adjust their recovery recommendations accordingly. It can also provide fans with interesting information, such as the fact that Polish striker Robert Lewandowski set the record for the highest average walking distance in a World Cup group stage during the World Cup group stage, according to data provided by FIFA via The Athletic, just Defeated Argentina’s Lionel Messi. Meanwhile, United States left-back Anthony Robinson recorded the fourth-highest top speed in the group stage at 35.4 kilometers per hour (nearly 22 mph).
These might just be fun facts for most of us, but they’re also useful information for the coaching staff. This data can help coaches get their players back in shape for the next game, or create better plans to secure victory — and sports bra-like GPS vests provide that information.
This all makes sense, but why pair it with a vest instead of a wrist tracker like a fitness watch? According to Catapult Sports, this is for accuracy and safety. “The vest holds the pod in an optimal tracking position so it can reach GPS satellites,” explains the brand. “This ensures the data is as accurate and reliable as possible.” The brand added that the location has also been “proven” to be the safest for athletes playing high-intensity sports such as football, basketball and rugby.
Plus, soccer players can’t throw themselves into Brandi Chastain after a big win if their GPS trackers don’t look like sports bras. What are all those data points without the iconic goal celebration, right?