World Cup for the Ages

As the US Men’s National Team wrapped up their final International window before heading to the World Cup in Qatar they are posed to possibly have one of the youngest teams in World Cup history if the roster allows.

Since the 1950 World Cup, there have been eight teams with an average below 24.0, with the best finish among those eight teams being the 1966 North Korea n team who lost in the quarterfinal to Portugal and had an average roster age of 22.455, Turkey was the team with the next best-finish at the 1954 World Cup and had an average age of 23.409, but wasn’t able to advance out of the Group Stage.

It’s worth noting that the US Men’s National Team from the 1990 World Cup field is a team with an average age of 23.591 & finished 23rd of 24 teams. While the USMNT World Cup team will be slightly older than 1990, they have something that the “Modern Era” teams of the 1990s’ didn’t have with is a high level of competitive club soccer, with nearly 70% of the primary player pool and is playing throughout Europe.

A look at the USMNT World Cup Rosters Age Data

1950- Had no players 20 and under on their 18-man USMNT roster

1990- Had no players in the 29 to 32 or 33 and older age category

1998 & 2006- I think it’s telling to note that both the 1998 and 2006 USMNT rosters didn’t have any players in the 20 and under category and both have nearly a 28.4 average roster age.  Both teams failed to get out of the Group Stage.

2010-The USMNT had the highest amount of players in the critical 25 to 28 range at over 43%. 

2018-The values for the 2018 projected squad are based on a 35-man roster and based on comments made by Bruce Arena on who he would have likely brought to the World Cup along with writers’ projected USMNT squads. It’s enough to get an idea of what the average age would have been along with the 

For the 2022 USMNT roster it will likely not have any players in the 33 and older range on their roster unless somehow Tim Ream is selected.

Headed into the 2022 World there are legends Lionel Messi (35) and Cristiano Ronaldo (37) if healthy will be participating in their fifth and likely final World Cup along with many other world greats who are also likely to be playing in their final World Cup, Robert Lewandowski (34), Luis Suarez (35), Edinson Cavani (35), Luka Modric (37) and Manuel Neuer (36)

It’s clear by looking at this graph that since 1950 we’ve seen the average age of the Top 8 teams increase seeing a low average age of 25.66 during the 1966 World Cup to the highest average in 1998 of 27.51 of the top 8 finishers.

The age of 25 to 28 in all World Cups except in 1966 represented the most common age range seen with as high as 49.4% of the roster having players between 25 to 28 grouping and as low as 34.1%.

Pelé is the youngest player in history to win a World Cup with Brazil in 1958 at the age of 17. Pelé was also on the youngest team, the 1970 Brazil National Team to win a World Cup with an average age of 24.41.

Julian Green currently holds the record for being the youngest USMNT selected to a World Cup roster, earning a cap and scoring a goal, and is currently the 7th youngest in World Cup History to score goals with an age of 19 years, 25 days. Of the USMNT Players involved.

Julian Green Goal at 1:23 on video

In the same 2014 World Cup that saw the youngest-ever USMNT player score, it also had the oldest USMNT player Jermaine Jones score an amazing goal vs Portugal.

Frank Moniz from the 1950 World Cup is the oldest USMNT player to be selected to a roster nearly 38 years and 9 months old, with Fernando Clavijo being the oldest USMNT player to be capped and a starter during the 1994 World Cup where he started the last 3 matches and ended his USMNT career with a red card vs Brazil in the Round of 16.

With November 20th rapidly approaching a lot of questions remain for the US Men’s National team and whether or not they will be able to put everything together and get out of their group. A lack of veteran leaders are missing from this very young yet talented group and when they get on the biggest soccer stage in the world they are going to be able to use the experience and playing at one of the highest levels in Europe to overcome their age, experience and at time maturity at the 2022 World Cup and be one of the youngest teams to advance to the knockout stage, this USMNT fan truly hopes so.