What Are Caps In Soccer? Definition, History, & Stats

Soccer is a global sport that is now gaining momentum in popularity even on the American continent. However, not many people understand what caps actually are in soccer and how players earn them. So, we will take a close look to find out!

Caps are a term used in soccer that refers to the number of times a player has represented their national team in an international match. In soccer, caps are considered a measure of a player’s achievement and are highly coveted by players all around the world.

But this term has a long history behind it. And as Soccer became immensely popular, it is now widely used in many other difficult sports as well. Let’s dive deep!

A Spanish player in Spain jersey in FIFA World Cup 2022, with the featured text of what are caps in soccer.
Source: Wikimedia Commons


History Of “Caps”

Content Summery

The term “caps” originated in cricket in the 19th century and was later adopted by other sports, including soccer.

The word “cap” originally referred to a commemorative cap given to a player who had represented their country in a cricket match.

The cap had the team’s emblem and the player’s initials embroidered on it. And you can still find old images of some greatest cricket players wearing their embroidered caps.

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How Players Earn Their Caps In Soccer?

In soccer, caps are given to players who have represented their national team in an international match. An international match is a game played between two national teams.

It can be a friendly, a qualifier, or a major tournament match such as the FIFA World Cup or the European Championship. However, players don’t get a cap even if they play for prestigious football leagues.

To earn a cap, a player must be selected to play in an international match by their national team coach. A player can only earn one cap per match, regardless of how many times they have played in that match.

This means that if a player is substituted off and then back on again, they still only receive one cap.


FIFA’s Regulation About Caps In Soccer

FIFA, the governing body of soccer, has regulations about caps. According to FIFA, a player must play at least one minute in an international match to earn a cap.

If a player is named in the squad but does not play, they do not earn a cap. Additionally, FIFA recognizes caps only for matches between national teams that are members of FIFA.


Can Players Earn Caps If They Are On The Bench?

A player can earn caps even if they are on the bench and do not play in the match. However, this depends on the national team’s rules and regulations.

Some national teams count bench appearances as caps, while others do not. And due to this conflict, some of the greatest soccer players have certain opinion differences regarding getting a cap.

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Can A Player Earn Caps For Multiple Countries?

It is possible for a player to earn caps for multiple countries if they are eligible to play for more than one national team. And many popular soccer players have already done this.

This can happen if a player has dual citizenship or if they have not played for their original country in a competitive match.

A notable example of this is one of the most handsome soccer players, Diego Costa, who was born in Brazil but played for Spain in the 2014 World Cup.


Somalian national female soccer team wearing blue jersey.
Source: Wikimedia Commons


Why Female Players Earn More Caps Than Male Players In Soccer?

In men’s soccer, the player with the most caps is Ahmed Hassan from Egypt, with 184 caps. But in women’s soccer, the player with the most caps is one of the greatest female soccer players, Kristine Lilly, from the United States, with 354 caps.

She is followed by one of the most popular female soccer players, Christie Rampone, from the United States, with 311 caps, and Formiga, from Brazil, with 202 caps.

Female players tend to earn more caps than male players because there are more international tournaments for women’s soccer, such as the Women’s World Cup and the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament.

Additionally, women’s national teams tend to play more friendly matches than men’s national teams.

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Players With The Most Caps In Soccer History

Although there are many soccer players who have earned more than 100 caps for their national sides, only a handful of them has actually crossed the 150-cap bar. And for women’s soccer, only five players now have got more than 200 caps.

Player Caps Goals
Ahmed Hassan 184 33
Mohamed Al-Deayea 178 0
Claudio Suarez 177 6
Iker Casillas 167 0
Bader Al-Mutawa 164 51

Stats are a bit different in female soccer! Some of the richest female players are now known for their consistent presence in international matches. And they usually earn more caps than their male counterparts.

Player Caps Goals
Kristine Lilly 354 130
Christie Rampone 311 24
Christine Sinclair 301 187
Abby Wambach 256 184
Formiga 202 29


Current (Active) Players With Most Caps

From one of the best football defenders, Sergio Ramos, to Claudio Bravo, who is now counted among FIFA’s greatest goalkeepers, they are known for their huge number of caps.

Even amid the ongoing Ronaldo vs. Messi debate, both the greats are now active has more caps than many other players.

Player Caps Goals
Sergio Ramos 180 23
Cristiano Ronaldo 180 118
Lionel Messi 153 79
Claudio Bravo 150 0
Javier Mascherano 147 3

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Argentine football club playing a match on green stadium.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Final Note

Caps are a measure of a player’s achievement in soccer and are highly coveted by players all around the world. Players earn caps by representing their national team in an international match, and FIFA has regulations about what types of matches count as caps.

Female players tend to earn more caps than male players due to the availability of international tournaments and friendly matches. So, that’s all for today. Don’t forget to drop your queries and start a conversation with us in the comment box below.

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