Physical/physiological demands in different age groups

Youth players are not miniature adults. However, there seemed to be limited research with regards to actual game/match analysis. As a result the physical/physiological demands of the game and therefore possible resulting training guidelines are very limited for specific age/maturation groups.

Situational variances

Naturally, youth players play on different size pitch and include lower number of players in many age groups.

As on overview I have tried to include as much information from different countries regarding pitch size, number of players and duration of games.

Football pitch sizes

Depending on the total pitch area and the number of players, the individual pitch area will vary. Consequently and due to the greater individual pitch size for adults, differences in physical and physiological variables from adults to youth players might partly be explained already.

Physical/physiological aspects

However, as youth players (depending on age and maturation) inherent lower strength, aerobic and anaerobic capacity (1), glycogen stores (2) and less well-developed thermoregulatory responses (3), on-pitch performances differ from adults.

Generally, it seems that match performance increase with age (4) and the available literature suggests that young soccer players cover between 5 to 8 km per match, which is 3 to 4 km less than adults (5-11).

Age related football match performance/demands

Positional roles

It seems that similar to adult football (12, 13), position roles have impact on match performance/demands (4, 14, 15).

Youth midfielders cover greater distance compared to defenders and strikers (9). Furthermore centre-backs covered the lowest total distance and underwent the least high-intensity activities in comparison to wingers and strikers (4)
As a result, the position needs to be taken into account in the players development. However, selecting a position too early in the development process seems to favor loss of physical ability and tactical skills (16).

Physiological demands of youth footballers


As a result, youth footballers cover lower total distances, produce a smaller number and frequency of high-intensity activities during match play compared to adults due to the physiological differences, maturity status as well as shorter duration of playing time during a game (14).

However and controversially, research (17) also suggests when accounting for speed thresholds that younger players tend to do more sprinting (18) and run the same total distance (19).

Furthermore, age-related differences in between-half variations in match running performance have also been suggested (20), with younger players being able to maintain high-intensity running in the second half better than older players (20, 21).

From a developmental point of view it seems that physical match performances of youth players  is closing the gap to adults football approximately 3-4 years after PHV approximately at around 17 (-18) years of age.


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