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I see female footballers who have played over 300 international games and several who have more than 200 caps. A sample of the top scorers in women's football:

Player, Caps

  • Abby Wambach, 228
  • Mia Hamm, 275
  • Christine Sinclair, 211
  • Kristine Lilly, 352
  • Birgit Prinz, 214

The corresponding record holder for men's football is Ahmed Hassan with a comparatively paltry 184. Is there a reason for this difference?

I wondered if it was because the men's football calendar is packed with league fixtures leaving very little room for international matches. But, I believe England and several other countries have professional leagues for women footballers too. So, is there some other reason for the discrepancy?

  • Hmm, that is a little bit wierd. I've seen those stats as well, but I can't figure out why it is so. Generally, women's careers are shorter, due to a higher (average) number of injuries (especially knee injuries are overrepresented amongst women) and the fact that some choose to end their careers early to create families. Perhaps it could have something to do with the rapid development of the sport to do? Women might get the chance to represent their national teams earlier in their careers? Good question! – Qvist Oct 31 '14 at 12:23
  • Just to add some source for the numbers mentioned in your post, here is List of footballers with 100 or more caps from Wikipedia (which lists both men and women). – Martin Oct 31 '14 at 13:49
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    the most surprising thing to me is that the top players are midfielders. usually it's the goalkeeper and defenders who have the most caps for their country. – cantsay Nov 2 '14 at 4:53
  • Does playing for professional leagues limit (either logistically or contractually) the number of international matches in which a man could play? – Val Nov 3 '14 at 21:34
  • @Phab-I too know her name as Prinz only. Sorry about the typo. – Yaitzme Nov 19 '14 at 10:45
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There are more international competitions for female national teams. For example the Algarve-Cup, the 4-nations-tournament and the Cyprus Cup.

Most male national teams just playing the World Cup, the continental Cup, the Confed-Cup and the qualifications for them.

Often less games in league:

It's possible to play these additional tournaments, because their schedules are less close than the male ones.

For example the german league (one of the best female leagues) only contains 12 teams (18 in the male league) and they play each team two times (22 matches, 34 for males). So the females have 12 games less in league. Also in Norway: 12 female teams, 16 male teams.

In addition there is no U21 team for females. In german amateur division the eldest class is A (U19/U18). There's no A (U19/U18) for females, they play in the adults team after B (U17/U16).

An additional factor might be that there are much more "new" teams in male competitions, than in the female competitions.

(A reason why player of "lesser" teams have more games could be, that in "lesser" continental associations are more competitions (eaven for males) and players of "big" clubs wont participate at nonrelevant competitions.)

  • The Cyprus Cup 2008 runner-up was USA(U-20) according to the wiki page. Also, could you add WHY they play these extra tournaments? – Yaitzme Nov 19 '14 at 10:47
  • @Yaitzme Why do they play the World Cup? I guess because they want to win these cups (or for the money)!? It's clear that their schedules must have free time for these cups. – Phab Nov 19 '14 at 12:42
  • Of course, I wasn't referring to the world cups. I was wondering how their schedules have free time for these cups. After all, some of them do play in professional womens' leagues similar to (albeit at a smaller scale) to mens' leagues – Yaitzme Nov 19 '14 at 12:44
  • @Yaitzme The female leagues often have less teams than the male ones. In Germany 12 female teams in first league and 18 teams in the male league. So there are 12 games less in the schedule. ... added this to my answer. – Phab Nov 19 '14 at 12:47
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    @Yaitzme But in Scottish Premier League they play each team 3 times and then play in tow groups (6 teams each) for championship or going down. So they play 38 games each team. – Phab Nov 19 '14 at 13:12
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I think because female football is played by a few number of players than men's one. So it is more difficult to find new strong player to play with national teams. So it easy for the coaches to "use" experienced players to find better results

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    Agree with the 1st point. But the 2nd point seems a bit weak, in the sense, the coaches would not depend on media to find/scout players. – SahuKahn Oct 31 '14 at 15:29
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    Women and men have different physical peaks. Men seem to peak later (in their 20's) and decline faster, where women are often on national teams as teenagers and play through their 30's. The media part doesn't seem to have much ground... – diggers3 Oct 31 '14 at 16:09
  • Edit: deleted media coverage meaning – Ale Nov 2 '14 at 1:50
  • I note that many of the most capped male players are from "lesser" teams. This appears to support the theory that when there is a smaller talent pool, it is easier to have a longer career. – Peter Eisentraut Nov 2 '14 at 16:00
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    Yes, that indeed is true. Many countries (often Asian) produce once-in-a-generation figurehead football stars who often go on to play over 150 games. (USA and Donovan is a non Asian example) – Yaitzme Nov 3 '14 at 11:39

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