The Application of Machine Learning Techniques for Predicting Match Results in Team Sport: A Review

Bunker, Rory, Susnjak, Teo

Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research 

Predicting the results of matches in sport is a challenging and interesting task. In this paper, we review a selection of studies from 1996 to 2019 that used machine learning for predicting match results in team sport. Considering both invasion sports and striking/fielding sports, we discuss commonly applied machine learning algorithms, as well as common approaches related to data and evaluation. Our study considers accuracies that have been achieved across different sports, and explores whether evidence exists to support the notion that outcomes of some sports may be inherently more difficult to predict. We also uncover common themes of future research directions and propose recommendations for future researchers. Although there remains a lack of benchmark datasets (apart from in soccer), and the differences between sports, datasets and features makes between-study comparisons difficult, as we discuss, it is possible to evaluate accuracy performance in other ways. Artificial Neural Networks were commonly applied in early studies, however, our findings suggest that a range of models should instead be compared. Selecting and engineering an appropriate feature set appears to be more important than having a large number of instances. For feature selection, we see potential for greater inter-disciplinary collaboration between sport performance analysis, a sub-discipline of sport science, and machine learning.

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