2016 Edelman Award Finalist ANFP

O.R. Transforms Scheduling of Chilean Soccer Leagues and South American World Cup Qualifiers

For the past 11 years, the Chilean Professional Soccer Association (ANFP) has applied Operations Research (O.R.) techniques to schedule soccer leagues in Chile. Using integer programming, ANFP decides which matches are played in each round taking into account various operational and other considerations that include keeping costs in check and providing exciting tournaments for fans. So far, about 50 tournaments have been scheduled using this O.R. approach. Its overall direct economic impact is estimated to be around $59 million, including reductions in broadcaster operating costs, growth in soccer pay-TV subscriptions, increased ticket revenue and lower travel costs for the teams. In addition, this application of OR has produced significant non-economic impacts. First, accommodating team requirements and sporting criteria has improved process transparency and schedule fairness, increasing the fans’ interest in local professional tournaments; second, due to their high portability, these techniques have also been used to schedule sports leagues in other countries as well as the South American Qualifiers for the 2018 Soccer World Cup. Furthermore, the models and methods used in this application have been disseminated widely, helping promote OR as an effective tool for approaching practical problems through outreach activities that have reached thousands of high school and university students in four countries and millions of general-audience TV viewers and internet users.