what is a cap in soccer

What Is a Cap in Soccer? Everything You Need to Know

Soccer is a fun and entertaining sport with a rich history. Some of the greatest players in soccer are celebrated in so many ways. Such great players usually have outstanding achievements and records for their clubs and countries. 

One unique way to emphasize their success on the international stage is by looking at their caps.

So, what is a cap in soccer? A cap in soccer is the total of the number of times a player played for his country in international matches. Whenever a soccer player represents their country in an international game, they earn a soccer cap. It is a tally of matches the player played for his country.

For example, if a player represents his country 100 times in international matches, then the player has 50 caps. Overall, caps in soccer are a testament to a player’s ability.

Join me as I discuss more football caps meaning, history, most capped players, and much more.

Why Is It Called a Cap?

It is called a cap because, in history, players would receive a physical cap whenever they represented their country in international matches. 

The term cap is used metaphorically. However, there are situations in England where players receive a real cap for some international matches.

They can also receive special commemorative caps whenever they hit the 100 caps milestone. 

However, the term capo originates from England, where the United Kingdom awards a physical cap to every player participating in a match in Association soccer or rugby.

Well, that being said, a player getting an international cap does not mean they are receiving a physical hat. Players are capped even when they appear for a few seconds in a game. 

The most capped player meaning is a player that has the most caps for his or her country. For example, Cristiano Ronaldo is the most capped player for Portugal’s soccer men’s team.

How Does a Soccer Athlete Earn a Cap?

A soccer player receives a cap by making an appearance in an international soccer game. For example, you earn a cap for the American National team when you make an appearance in the team against another International team like Canada.

cap in soccer

Individual soccer drills without appearing on the national soccer team will not earn you a cap. 

Simply put, a player has to be first called into the national team to have any chances of earning a cap. However, a player cannot earn a cap by being in the squad.

A player earns a cap when they get minutes in the game. This can be by starting the game or coming on as a substitute. A player can earn a cup in different matches for the national team. 

This can be the world cup qualifying matches, Euros, International friendlies, and much more.

When you hear a team has 300 caps in soccer, then it’s a very experienced team. It means the players in the squad have a combined 300 appearances for their national team.

Can Players Who Enter the Game as a Substitute Earn a Cap?

Yes. Players who enter a game as a substitute earn a cap.

There is no time requirement to earn a cap. As long as you get into the field and play even for a few seconds, you earn a cap.

A player earns a cap as long as they get on the field. You’ve probably seen a substitution in soccer when the game is in stoppage time. Yes, such players earn a cap even if they don’t touch the ball.

First Cap: What Does It Mean?

The first cap in soccer means a player is making his first appearance for the National team in an international match. It means the player has been called into the national team and is making the first appearance.

You’ll hear people saying the player has been capped for the first time.

Who Has the Most Women’s Soccer Caps?

Kristine Lilly holds the record for the most caps for women’s soccer as of January 2022. She has 354 caps playing for the United States women’s soccer team. So far, she has played in a record 5 world cups. 

womens soccer team

Kristine has played in four different decades during her youth and older age. Carli Lloyd playing for the United States came second with 316 caps.

Who Has the Most Caps in Soccer?

When it comes to the most caps in soccer, you have to categorise the caps under men’s soccer and women’s soccer.

  • Most Caps for Women’s Soccer: The record for most caps for women’s soccer as indicated earlier goes to Kristine Lilly of the United States at 354 caps. She has played for the United States women’s soccer team for four decades and holds the record for most caps in soccer.
  • Most Caps for Men’s Soccer: For men’s soccer, Soh Chin Ann of Malaysia holds the record with 219 caps. Bader Al-Mutawa of Kuwait comes second with 196 caps. Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal comes third with 189 caps. He tops the list of most caps in Europe ahead of Sergia Ramos at 180 caps.

Attaining such records is no mean feat with players staying in top shape to play to their forties. 

Most of these players perform exceptional soccer conditioning drills to keep fit and play to their forties. You’ll usually find goalkeepers and defenders playing most matches in soccer.

What Does Cap Mean in Soccer?

A cap in soccer means the number of appearances a player made for the National team in an international match. The number of times a player appears for their soccer national team is recorded. This is what we call a cap.

Why Do Footballers Get Caps?

Football players get caps because it distinguishes the national team’s best players in international games. It is a special recognition to the players that represent a country on soccer’s biggest stage.

soccer game

A soccer cap distinguishes players on the field, vs those on the bench. A soccer cap is a great way to recognize and award players for their efforts in national teams. 

You’ll find players striving to achieve as many caps as possible for their national teams.

What Does 200 Caps Mean in Soccer?

200 caps in soccer mean making 200 appearances for the National team at international matches. It is a total of 200 appearances made by a soccer player.

It simply means a soccer player has made 200 appearances for the soccer national team. This is no mean achievement as very few players have over 200 caps.


There you go! Now you know what a cap means in soccer. A soccer cap is the tally of appearances players make for their national team in International matches. 

For soccer players, representing your country in an international soccer match is a big honour. What began in 1872 in England and Scotland is now officially recognized on the world stage.

A special way to recognize a player’s contribution to the national team is by looking at the number of caps. I hope that you now have a clear understanding of what a cap means and you’ll appreciate players with caps for their countries.

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