Milligan student predicts FIFA World Cup™ champion through undergraduate research
This year’s FIFA World Cup™ was defined by upsets and surprises, but for Milligan College junior Luis de la Torre, France’s victory on July 15, 2018, was predicted in advance. In April, de la Torre presented research on how to predict the World Cup champion through statistics at the college’s annual Rise Above Research Conference, tabbing France as the eventual winner.
de la Torre’s research began in his econometrics course, where students learn how to apply statistics and mathematical models to predict future trends in economics. For the final project, students were allowed to pick a scenario where they could apply the methods learned over the semester. As a soccer player, de la Torre knew he wanted to connect his classwork to the upcoming World Cup and the ultimate champion.
“To predict the winner, my project had to go beyond the requirements,” said de la Torre. “We were required to create a scenario with one dependent variable. To predict the World Cup, I had to include eight dependent variables.”
de la Torre credited his professor, Dr. David Campbell, associate professor of economics, and his small class size as critical to his success.
“We connected our projects to each lesson, and with a small class size, we were able to discuss everyone’s project in great detail,” he said.
Still, de la Torre acknowledged the project didn’t always go smoothly.
“When I thought I had accounted for everything, I asked Dr. Campbell to run my model on his computer program and it crashed,” laughed de la Torre. “It was good for me. I had to make adjustments to make my model better. Each day after class, I would head straight to the library to incorporate what I had learned into my project.”
Once his model was perfected, de la Torre used the results to create his bracket. Each team advanced to the next game based off of the percentages produced in his model. The team with the higher percentage moved on to the next round. In the end, France emerged as the winner.
“I watch the World Cup every four years and previously I never had a team that I wanted to win,” said de la Torre. “This year was different. My dad was most excited that my prediction came true. He called me to celebrate as the game ended.”
Soccer played a critical role in de la Torre’s journey to Milligan College. As a stand-out player from Naucalpan, Mexico, de la Torre spoke to coaches from several colleges. Milligan stood out to him because of the smaller campus and the welcoming, Christian environment.
Having been sidelined by an injury last season, de la Torre is excited to return to the soccer field this fall to compete for Milligan. With the skills learned in the classroom, he may have some predictions for the season as well.