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In association football, an assist is a contribution by a player which helps a teammate to score a goal. Statistics for assists made by players may be kept officially by the organisers of a competition, or unofficially by, for example, journalists or organisers of fantasy football competitions. Recording assists is not part of the official Laws of the Game and the criteria for an assist to be awarded may vary.

Most commonly, an assist is credited to a player for passing or crossing the ball to the scorer. It may also be awarded to a player whose shot rebounds (off a defender, goalkeeper or goalpost) to a teammate who scores; or to a player who wins a penalty kick for another player to convert. An attacking player may be awarded an assist for contributing to an own goal. Players usually cannot be awarded an assist for a goal they themselves score. Typically a maximum of one or two assists is awarded per goal.

Statistical recording of assists

Record of assists was virtually not kept at all until the end of the 20th century. The North American Soccer League kept assist statistics from its foundation in 1968, as its forebears the United Soccer Association and National Professional Soccer League had done the previous year. Analogous statistics were already being kept in basketball and in ice hockey, both established North American sports.

In the FIFAmarker Technical Study Group's report on the 1986 World Cup, the authors calculated for the first time unofficial statistics for assists, developing the following criteria:
  1. An assist was awarded to the player who had given the last pass to the goalscorer.
  2. In addition, also the last but two holder of the ball could get an assist provided that his action had decisive importance for the goal .
  3. After goals from rebounds those players were awarded an assist who had shot on target.
  4. After goals scored on penalty or by a directly converted free-kick the fouled player received a point .
  5. In case that the goalscorer had laid on the goal for himself (dribble, solo run), no assists were awarded .
  6. No assists were awarded, either, if the goalscorer took advantage of a missed pass by an opponent .

The 1990 World Cup technical report adopted similar criteria, but changed the free-kick/penalty criterion:
  • Where goals resulting from penalties are concerned, the player who is fouled in the area receives an assist point (unless, that is, the player who is fouled subsequently executes the penalty himself .)

Planet World Cup has calculated some retrospective data on assists back to the 1966 World Cup, though the 1986 data differ from FIFA's.

FIFA started officially keeping track of assists in World Cup tournaments at the 1994 edition. This was popularly ascribed to the popularity of detailed sports statistics among American fans. 1994 was also the first World Cup in which assists were used as a tie-breaker in determining the Golden Shoe award for top scorer. In the event, both Hristo Stoichkov and Oleg Salenko finished with 19 points, from 6 goals and 1 assist. FIFA's Technical Study Group is responsible for awarding assist points.

It is official practice for certain leagues to keep record of assists. The United Statesmarker' Major League Soccer, for instance, formerly awarded the MLS Scoring Champion Award based on 2 points per goal scored and one per assist. The all-time leader in assists in Major League Soccer is midfielder Steve Ralston, with 125 as of July 2008. The Frenchmarker league, Ligue 1, awards the Trophée de Meilleur Passeur ("best passer trophy") to the leader in assists following every season, the 2007-08 recipient being Jérôme Leroy.

In Britain, all game statistics, including assists, for the Premier League, the Scottish Premier League and the Football League are all provided by PA Sport under the Actim brand. Since the 2006–07 season, assists have been factored into the Actim Index of Premier League player performance.


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