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How Late is Too Late to Start Soccer?

How Late is Too Late to Start Soccer?

Sports are for people old and young, and soccer is no different! And so, no age is too late to start playing soccer. But of course, that depends on what “level” of soccer you are talking about.

If it’s a weekend-hype or street soccer with your friends, you can pick up the skills needed at any age. On the contrary, professional soccer needs much more than a drive and a desire to do well.

Soccer is the most-watched sport on the planet, with around 3.5 billion fans. And the more eyes on a sport, the more competitive it gets on a professional level.

Soccer clubs around the world are picking up players aging 5-11 to nourish them for the future. So, if you plan to pull up your soccer socks at 20, you’ll be competing against players that have been at it for a decade!

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And if the players are already making it to the A teams by the ages of 16 and 17, that doesn’t leave much room for the late bloomers. But don’t abandon all hope just yet!

Soccer is still an amazing sport to start at any age. It keeps you physically fit even if your playing at the most casual of levels.

And who knows, you may still have a chance to play soccer and even make it to a big stage if you’re lucky?

some kid soccer players are celebrating a score

How Late is Too Late to Start Soccer?

It never really is too late to start any sport!

And for soccer, all you need is a ball and a goal post to shoot at to get started. But if you want to enroll in a team and compete against other players, that’s when age might become a factor!

So, let’s break down the way soccer is played into three categories. The first is professional (National Teams + Clubs), the second is semi-professional (Academies), and the third is casual soccer.

Now casual soccer comes free of restrictions. If you’re only playing against your friends on a weekend or a day on the beach, you have a lot of time to enjoy the sport.

But soccer on a professional or a semi-professional level gets very intense!

It demands strong stamina, a fit physique, and a ridiculous amount of muscle memory for skills. And that’s why National Teams, Clubs, and even beginner Academies are full of youngsters.

some children are in the soccer training session

So, if you’re just starting up, you’ll be up against players who’ve known soccer for more than half their lives!

And not only playing, soccer players learn a lot from the senior players on their teams. While growing up, they’re watching different leagues, learning from other coaches, and trying different teams to play in.

This is what builds up the motivation for a 16-year-old to aspire and make it to the A-team!

But since playing professional soccer is not something everyone can do anyway, you shouldn’t let your age stop you from pursuing your passion.

So, let’s find out what level of soccer you can still have a shot at!

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Is 14 Too Old to Start Playing Soccer?

14 may sound like the perfect age to start playing soccer and still make it to the big teams, but it’s not. However, it’s not as bad as it looks either!

Learning to pass, shoot, dribble, and cross the ball takes at least two years of training and coaching. And that’s excluding the time taken to understand team strategies, perfecting your position, and learning to play alongside 10 other players.

It’ll take a few years for you to catch up on your competitors in soccer, and that’s where it gets better!

By the age of 20, you’ll have six years’ worth of soccer coaching and training. And that can even earn you scholarships at Colleges or soccer Academies, if not clubs or professional teams.

Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Miroslav Klose are two hall-of-famers of soccer who started playing late. So, don’t give up your hopes too quickly!

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Though starting to play soccer at 14 may not give you a lot of chances to start earning from it, it still gives you a good shot at a semi-professional level. 

You’ll have ample time to perfect your skills to try for College scholarships, and even get invitations from your local teams to play for them!

Is 20 Too Old to Start Soccer?

The chances to make it into professional soccer leagues start slim out when you hit your 20s, especially when you’re just starting out!

This is the age when most professional players hit the “peak” of their careers. And a great deal of it is attributed to physical ability and endurance at this age.

You will agree that we start to lose our athletic abilities by the age of 33. So, even if you spend 5-7 years in training to bring yourself up to par with the competitive soccer standards, you won’t have a broad lifespan left.

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Plus, professional soccer teams invest more in young talent than old. Meaning, if you’re in a pool of selection against a 19-year-old and you’re 26, you’ll definitely lose the poll.

However, there are many B leagues that you can still shine at. Unlike the mainstream A leagues, the competition isn’t as sturdy, and newer players get better chances of showcasing their skills.

So, 20 is too old to start playing soccer and make it to the professional A leagues. But not too much to play for a local club, academy, or even a low-mid tier league.

Is 30 Too Old to Play Soccer?

30 is undoubtedly too late for anyone to start playing soccer as a profession. Since it takes at least 4-6 years to pick up the skills and build a physique for soccer, you’ll be way beyond the professional soccer pool by the time you get to it.

The goal of playing soccer at this age is specifically inspired by a hobby and not a professional career. And why not? The mid-late 30s are when even the players who started playing soccer at 10 start to retire.

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The athletic abilities only go a downward slope after you hit the 30-mark. And there’s no way you can compete with soccer players at their peak in the early 20s.

However, you can still learn to play soccer with your friends or at a local academy!

Playing at a local academy or your park team will still have all the benefits of playing a sport and socializing.

You can still roll up as a soccer club fan and follow your teams in different leagues. And then try out the same skills and dribble in your weekend or casual matches.

Because even though professional and semi-professional soccer is out of your league by now, it is still a remarkable workout for your body!

Playing soccer engages most of the muscles in your body. However, your lower body and core take the lion’s share of burden when playing.

Starting to play soccer at 30 will improve your cardiovascular health and keep your BMI in check as well. 

an old soccer player is holding a ball

The key is in remaining fit and healthy, no matter how you do it. And playing soccer checks all the boxes you need to stay fit!

What is the Best Age to Start Soccer?

The earlier you start playing soccer, the better your chances of being a pro player later on. Ideally, kids of age 7-10 are the ripest for beginning to play soccer!

However, we must first settle the learning phases of soccer for kids. The primary phase where you learn to touch the ball starts as early as when you are 3 years old!

You don’t expect crosses or knuckleballs from kids this age. But it is the best time to make a kid familiar with the touch and idea of soccer.

There’s no need for rules at this point. Letting a kid play with the ball as he wishes makes him develop ball control as he tosses and kicks it from one side to the other.

But when a kid crosses the 7 years mark, then begins the second phase. Teaching a kid passes, shoots, crosses, runs, and basic skills come into play at this time.


Because by the time your kid is 11, he’ll then be ready to face the trials of soccer clubs and academies. And that’s where the third phase and real journey begins as he is polished by coaches and professional play!

So based on the chances of making it to professional soccer and not imposing soccer on a kid too much either, the best age to start soccer is around 7 years old.

What is the Age Limit for Soccer Players?

There is no age limit for soccer players by FIFA on men or women. But players over 35 are already dinosaurs on the pitch nearing a way out of the team!

But Cristiano Ronaldo is 36 and just signed a contract with his former club (2021), Manchester United. And that means he will be playing soccer at the highest pedestal in a club that has the most following on the planet.

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David Beckham, too, retired from professional soccer at the age of 38. So, age isn’t really a restriction in soccer as long as you can keep up with the young blood on the pitch and prove your worth.

On the contrary, Olympics Soccer tells a different story. The Olympics Committee allows only 3 players to be over the age of 23 in a squad. And the remaining 20 soccer players must be of age 23 or younger.

Other than that, the only time where age restrictions apply to mainstream soccer is in some specified leagues and tournaments. For example, the Under 15, Under 17, Under 19, and Under 21 soccer leagues are self-explanatory.

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Billions of people follow and play soccer, and everyone wants to make it to the professional leagues!

But with such a diehard fanbase and following comes a tough competition to survive. And so, the best bet is always to start young and giving as many years to the sport as possible before you’re 16.

But if you take soccer as a professional out of context, it is never really too late!

You’ll surely struggle in training for the first few years, as with any other sport. And then be ready for a weekend hustle or any mid-tier leagues, even when you start playing soccer in your 30s.

But if nothing works out on a professional or semi-professional level, soccer still gives you a healthy lifestyle!

Showing up to training and competing against other players builds a sense of competition and discipline.

So, there really is no limit on age or the level of soccer you want to play. Numerous talented players are pulling up their soccer socks late and still making the most out of the sport!