This plot compares the prowess of the top five European soccer teams and top five non-European (“Global”) soccer teams. A representative team was selected from each of the top ten leagues with the highest mean Soccer Power Index (SPI), a statistic calculated by FiveThirtyEight. The SPI represents the percentage of points a team is predicted to take if a game is played over and over again. The individual team with the highest SPI rating was chosen to represent each league. The average number of goals each team scored and the average number of “goals allowed” (goals scored against them by the opposing team) were then sourced from footystats.org for their seasons that kicked off in 2021.
In this figure, goals scored are plotted on the x-axis and goals allowed on the y-axis; teams scoring more goals will be farther to the right, while teams allowing more goals will be higher in the plot. By these measures, the most successful teams will be located in the bottom right of the plot. The team with the highest average goals scored during this season was located in Germany (courtesy of Bayern Munich), while the team with the most goals allowed is in the United States (tough luck for Los Angeles FC). In fact, three of the teams that are located farthest to the right are European (France and England join Germany), whereas the two highest teams are not (US and Australia). While this plot does support the common notion that teams located in Europe are superior at soccer than the rest of the world, the gap is not as wide as I was expecting. Ignoring the two highest points on the plot, the majority of teams are concentrated at roughly the same level in terms of average number of goals scored against them. And barring the absolute scoring machine that is Bayern Munich in Germany, eight out of the ten teams scored an average of 1.7-2.4 goals per game during the 2021 season.
Given that most of the points are clustered near the center of the graph, it seems that the rest of the world may actually be catching up in terms of soccer skill. It makes sense that Europe does have an advantage; after all, they are not in want of any funding, support from the public, or general hype. Based on this plot, however, the playing field might be leveled soon enough.