Trinity University professor devises formula that can predict FIFA World Cup winner

By Nichole West

SAN ANTONIO - A sports economics professor at Trinity University created a formula that he said can predict the winner of the FIFA World Cup.

Ricardo Santos said the motivation to create the model resulted from his love for soccer and the many discussions of potential winners that surround every major soccer tournament. 

“I thought it would be fun to have a mathematical model that would tell me who will exactly, or who will likely win the World Cup and other types of tournaments,” said Santos.

Santos has been working on his model on and off for five years. The method uses many factors to determine the probable winner.

The factors include: teams participating that are also hosting the tournament; the FIFA rankings to quantify the role of the team’s quality; the stage of generation, or maturity of the players on the team; experience of the team in previous World Cups; and the presence of a star player on the squad.

Although this method has accurately predicted the past two World Cup winners and the 2016 Euro Cup winner, Santos said he needs continued accuracy with his formula before his paper is published. Continued accuracy of his model may affect the future of sports betting.

“I don’t think that people should follow my model religiously,” Santos said. “What I am trying to say is, if I find a model, like this one that consistently finds the winner, then there could be some changes in the way that bookmakers form their betting odds."

Santos revealed to several of his friends that his model predicts Brazil to win the World Cup this year. His soccer teammate, Andrew Hutyra, has a different take on the legalization of sports betting.

“It is not going to affect me, because I have self-control, but I think it is going to affect a lot of other people,” said Andrew Hutyra, Santos' friend. “It can jeopardize people’s families, careers, and things like that, because it does get addicting.” 

Even with the past success of the model, Santos, who is from Portugal, still roots for his home team.

“I will watch every game with the same naive belief that my team will win, regardless of what my mathematical model might say. In the end I hope my model is wrong and my team wins, emotion beats rational in this topic,” Santos said. 

With the U.S. team not being in the tournament there is an economic downfall, but Santos says there is a positive impact, as well.

“The U.S. has the best facilities in the world to play soccer, and yet they fail to exceed at an upper level,” said Santos. “I think they need to rethink the way soccer is organized and designed in this country.

Americans have to pay to play soccer, whereas in other places, like Portugal, it is free. Being it is an economic issue at the youth level it would be difficult to have very good players at an upper level. And that is why, in some ways, the U.S. imports players.”

The FIFA World Cup begins Thursday in Russia.

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