Purpose: The aim of this study was to quantify and compare accumulated field time and external load of starters and nonstarters in a micro—cycle with one match and two matches.
Methods: Twenty-five professional male football players (24.8 ± 5.0 years, 184.3 ± 5.8 cm, 80.2 ± 7.6 kg) participated in this study. They were categorised based on starting status and divided into starters and nonstarters. Accumulated field time (FT) and external load variables; total distance (TD), high-speed running distance (HSR: 14.4 – 19.8 km·h-1), very high-speed running (VHSR: 19.8 – 25.2 km·h-1), sprint (SPR: > 25.2 km·h-1), and accelerations (ACC: > 2 m·s-2), were monitored using a combined 10Hz Global navigation satellite system (GNSS)/Local positioning system (LPS). The accumulated field time and external load difference between starters and nonstarters in a micro-cycle with one match (n=6 micro-cycles) and a micro-cycle with two matches (n=7 micro-cycles) were calculated and compared using a linear mixed model.
Results: In a micro-cycle with one match, nonstarters had significantly less FT (−8%, Hedges’ g effect size [g] = 0.95), TD (−13%, g = 1.07), HSR (−25%, g = 1.09), VHSR (−30%, g = 0.78), SPR (−42%, g = 0.71), and ACC (−21%, g = 0.92) compared to starters. Furthermore, nonstarters had significantly less FT (−22%, g = 2.41), TD (−34%, g = 3.33), HSR (−56%, g = 2.52), VHSR (−63%, g = 1.83), SPR (−73%, g = 0.97), and ACC (−35%, g = 1.72) than starters in a micro-cycle with two matches.
Conclusion: Nonstarters had a significantly lower accumulated field time and external load compared to starters in both a micro-cycle with one match and a micro-cycle with two matches. Nonstarters are at risk of being underloaded, and appropriate compensatory strategies are needed.