But what do you do when the statistics on players' performance suggest you should drop England captain David Beckham from the team?
Devious PE teachers in Bedfordshire have come up with just such a scenario in a bid to persuade pupils that maths really is useful and interesting.
In an exercise named Alex Ferguson's Dilemma, youngsters are presented with a table of data on the passes, tackles, and shots on goal made by soccer heroes Beckham, Scholes, Giggs, Veron, Butt, and Keane. They have to choose four of the six to play and justify their choices - despite some tampering with the data by teachers, which marks down the Manchester midfielder and England captain.
For example, should Beckham, with 19 shots on target but no goals to show for his efforts, keep a place over Scholes, who has scored two goals with only two out of 16 shots on target?
And where does that leave Keane, with no shots (never mind goals) at all, but nearly three times more successful passes than Beckham and five times more tackles won?
The game is one of several resources developed by a group of mainly middle-school PE teachers working with Lyn Lyman, Bedfordshire's key stage 3 numeracy consultant.
Mrs Lyman said: "I'm a maths teacher - I can't even do a forward roll. But in middle schools, you tend to get people, like PE teachers, working outside their specialism. I started to think about ways I could support them. One was that I could bring them together and get them talking about incorporating PE into maths."
Karen Jackson, head of Year 8 at Newnham middle school, Bedford, who teaches maths, PE and art, said: "They all want to take Beckham. But they can only take four and, using the data, they have to justify which four."