The relative age effect in youth soccer across Europe

J Sports Sci. 2005 Jun;23(6):629-36. doi: 10.1080/02640410400021310.


The potential asymmetries in the birth-date distributions of youth soccer players across ten European countries (2175 age citations) were considered. First, we examined the birth-dates of players representing national youth teams in international competitions. Second, the birth-dates of players representing professional club teams in international youth tournaments were analysed. Kolmogorov-Smirnov tests were used to assess differences between observed and expected birth-date distributions. Regression analyses were employed to examine the relationship between month of birth and number of players in the different samples. The results showed an over-representation of players born in the first quarter of the selection year (from January to March) for all the national youth selections at the under-15 (U-15), U-16, U-17 and U-18 age categories, as well as for the UEFA U-16 tournaments and Meridian Cup. Players with a greater relative age are more likely to be identified as "talented" because of the likely physical advantages they have over their "younger" peers. Some options for reducing the relative age effect are offered.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Seasons
  • Soccer / statistics & numerical data*
  • Task Performance and Analysis