What are caps in football?

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What are caps in football? When you start getting involved in soccer, you hear all sorts of terminology thrown around. One of the more common words you may hear players or spectators use is the word “cap” or a phrase like “player x has multiple caps”. But many people don’t understand what a cap means in soccer. In this article, I’m going to explain the meaning of the term “cap”.

What are caps in football?

In soccer, a cap is a term used to describe how many international games a player has participated in. The term originated in England where players were given a physical cap to commemorate their involvement in an international game. Players no longer receive a physical cap, but the term is still used.

Do Players Get an Actual Cap?

Many people seem to think that the physical cap has disappeared from the modern game, but this footballing phenomenon still exists in some places.

Can a Player Earn a Cap for Multiple Teams?

Still confused about how exactly those caps would be totted for? Thankfully, FIFA has come up with some guidelines about what types of games a player can earn a cap in:

  • Games played within a FIFA World Cup
  • Games played in the qualifying competitions for a World Cup
  • Continental competitions and their qualifying games
  • Friendly matches between senior national teams
  • Olympic final and qualifying matches

There are plenty of opportunities, then, for an international player to boost the number of caps they’ve collected. Which brings us to our next concern: which players have racked up the most international soccer match caps over the years?

Who Has the Most Caps in Soccer?

Association football has been going on for a long, long time. The formal rules were first set out by English amateur players in 1863, and in the many years since, a wide variety of different men’s and women’s players have racked up a ton of international caps. Let’s look through some of the names at the top of the list (be warned, they’re not all household names).

Who Has the Most Caps in Men’s Soccer?

In total, well over 500 men’s players have notched 100+ caps for their international side. Below are the select few names at the top of that list (according to FIFA’s official stats).

#1. Bader Al-Mutawa

What are caps in football

Country: Kuwait

Caps: 196

Status: Still active (last cap June 2022)

#2. Soh Chin Ann

Country: Malaysia

Caps: 195

Status: Retired (last cap in 1984)

#3. Cristiano Ronaldo

Country: Portugal

Caps: 191

Status: Still active (last cap Sep 2022)

#4. Ahmed Hassan

Country: Egypt

Caps: 184

Status: Retired (last cap in 2012)

#5. Ahmed Mubarak

Country: Oman

Caps: 180

Status: Still active (last cap in Dec 2019)

#6. Sergio Ramos

Country: Spain

Caps: 180

Status: Still active (last cap March 2021)

#7. Andrés Guardado

Country: Mexico

Caps: 179

Status: Still active (last cap Nov 2022)

#8. Mohamed Al-Deayea

Country: Saudi Arabia

Caps: 178

Status: Retired (last cap May 2006)

#9. Claudio Sánchez

Country: Mexico

Caps: 177

Status: Retired (last cap June 2006)

#10. Maynor Figueroa

Country: Honduras

Caps: 175

Status: Still active (last cap Feb 2022)

Who Has the Most Caps in Women’s Soccer?

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the long-established quality of the USA’s women’s soccer team, this is a list dominated by Americans. And some of the numbers reached are pretty mind-blowing…

#1. Kristine Lilly

Country: United States

Caps: 354

Status: Retired (last cap Nov 2010)

#2. Christine Sinclair

Country: Canada

Caps: 319

Status: Still active (last cap Nov 2022)

#3. Carli Lloyd

Country: United States

Caps: 316

Status: Retired (last cap Oct 2021)

#4. Christie Pearce

Country: United Status:

Caps: 311

Status: Retired (last cap Sep 2015)

#5. Mia Hamm

Country: United States

Caps: 276

Status: Retired (last cap Dec 2004)

#6. Julie Foudy

Country: United States

Caps: 274

Status: Retired (last cap Dec 2004)

#7. Abby Wambach

Country: United States

Caps: 255

Status: Retired (last cap Dec 2015)

#8. Joy Fawcett

Country: United States

Caps: 241

Status: Retired (last cap Aug 2004)

#9. Formiga

Country: Brazil

Caps: 234

Status: Still active (last cap Nov 2021)

#10. Caroline Seger

Country: Sweden

Caps: 232

Status: Still active (last cap June 2022)

What a list! There are some unbelievable appearance records in the international game, and several of the names mentioned in this article continue to rack up caps for their respective nations.

Want to build on your new knowledge about the beautiful game? Good news — our website is packed with more informative content about how soccer works.

For a great introduction to a range of ideas surrounding tactics, history, and influential figures in the sport, check out our guide to 10 soccer books to broaden your knowledge of the game.

Conclusion – What are caps in football?

Hopefully, you now feel you understand what a cap means in soccer and where and how this term originated.

If you are interested in more information about “caps” in soccer, visit Football Terms!

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