Microsoft Scrambles To Play in New Game of Sports Analytics

The Seattle Reign's win early this month was the product of conditioning. And the singular talent of Megan Rapinoe. The U.S. women's national soccer team star struck first with a 30-yard sprint that caught a Portland Thorns center back off guard, intercepting a lazy pass for a tap in goal.

In the second half, Rapinoe, who just turned 32, outran a younger defender to get on the end of a long pass and launch a strike from the corner of the penalty box.

The tallies extended her scoring lead in the National Women's Soccer League, a remarkable feat for a player a year and a half after major knee surgery.

The team in charge of keeping her fit and on the field has a new tool at its disposal: data-tracking software built by Microsoft. The Reign is among the dozen teams piloting Microsoft's Sports Performance Platform, which officially launched last month.

The software is part analytics display tool, part web-based data repository.

The Reign players take a brief wellness survey daily, rating sleep, soreness and hydration. GPS and heart-rate trackers that they wear during training sessions and games feed in data about how much ground players cover and how hard they're working.

The result is dashboards for individual players and the team that aim to score readiness, and, using Microsoft's machine-learning algorithms, flag at what point the stress of a season could be leading to an injury and time away from the field.

"The reason we do it is to prevent injury," coach Laura Harvey said. "So far, so good."

Of course, the Reign also uses the tool because Microsoft pays it to do so, part of the sponsorship that placed the company's name and logo on the front of the team's jerseys.

The Redmond company's influence is felt primarily in the corporate workplace. But Microsoft has spent big...

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