Further Research Opportunities

Through statistical analysis and qualitative observation, we found three concrete factors showing strong correlation to the success of a women’s national team.  While we are thrilled to achieve results that align with our hypothesis at the beginning of the project, there is always room for improvement and expansion of the research, especially considering the complex and evolving nature of the subject matter.

The seven factors examined in the study were chosen based on what we felt could have an influence on a woman’s soccer environment.  This led to us looking at some general characteristics of a nation’s identity like population and GDP, but also at more specific factors, such as those relating to women’s rights.  Of the three factors that proved to have a strong association, two were proxies for women’s rights (Gender Gap and Female participation in government) and the third was the men’s FIFA rankings.  Our study therefore demonstrates that a country with a more empowered female population has a better chance of having a successful woman’s team.  Again, we are very pleased with what the data showed us, but there is always opportunity for more research to dive deeper into which proxies associate the best with women’s soccer.  There are countless resources and different ways to quantify women’s rights and even more ways to combine different factors using statistical analysis to produce the strongest correlations.  We ruled out several factors as being non correlated with women’s national team success, but maybe when combined with other more specific factors they would prove to be significant.  For example, seeing if population or education levels would influence the relationship between the gender gap and women’s soccer success would be fascinating and would further enhance our research.

On top of expanding our research and digging further into the statistics, we could have also improved our own data with more robust resources and more time.  For one, we only targeted the top 100 teams in the FIFA women’s rankings when there are 155 teams in total.  Finding data for some of the less prominent countries teams proved to be a challenge, and if it was more readily available it would have sharpened the results.

Furthermore, the FIFA rankings were used as the metric of success for the men’s and women’s teams in this project.  As mentioned in the “FIFA men’s ranking analysis” section, these rankings are flawed.  They fail to account for many important factors of success in soccer and have been heavily criticized.  An Elo rating system has several advantages but is still not ideal.  In general, soccer is difficult to rank using statistical methods.  Unlike basketball and football where there are numerous ways to quantify efficiency and offensive and defensive performance, soccer is much more about the eye test.  So, while the Elo rankings do consider more factors and have been implemented into the FIFA ranking systems for both men and women, they are still far from perfect.  To further improve the project, we could have taken the average rankings over an allotted amount of time instead of taking the rankings on a certain date, which would give a more accurate representation of a country’s overall soccer prowess instead of their rank at a certain moment in time.

While statistical analysis is powerful and can show us a lot, the best way to know what truly influences women’s soccer in a country is to further pursue case studies and speak to women about their experiences in various cultures.  It is naive to think that every factor can be accounted for simply by finding data sets and crunching numbers.  Getting first person perspectives and studying various contrasting environments offline would be invaluable.  We were unable to conduct this kind of research given our time and budget constraints, but integrating this kind of research with our current data would lead us to even more accurate conclusions.

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