National Team vs. Club: Unraveling 5 Differences

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As an avid soccer fan, reaching the sport’s off-season can be a bit of a bummer. The sound of roaring stadiums and thrilling matches temporarily quiets down, and you’re left yearning for those electrifying moments on the pitch.

Luckily, soccer entertainment doesn’t have to stop there! You can still watch international tournaments like the Copa America. Such events typically happen after domestic soccer leagues end. The question is this: is national soccer better?

In this article, we’ll compare national teams vs. clubs, highlighting five key differences. So, stick around!

National Team vs. Club: Overview

Before diving into the differences between international teams and clubs in soccer, let’s take a moment to understand each of them.

National teams represent countries on the international stage, bringing together the best talent from each nation to compete in prestigious tournaments.

On the other hand, club teams are local or regional squads that participate in various leagues, often with players from diverse backgrounds. These two facets of soccer offer unique and exciting experiences for fans and players alike!

National Team vs. Club: What Are the Differences?

A team of young girls playing soccer match

While both national and club teams share a common love for soccer, they have several differences. These include the number of eligible teams, player ages, as well as season length and schedule. Team dynamics, playing style, and fanbase can also differ.

Let’s break down these differences in further detail!

1. Eligible Teams

As you might have guessed, fewer teams compete on the international level. Currently, FIFA, the global soccer authority, recognizes 211 national men’s teams. As for the women’s affiliated associations, they recognize 186 members.

In contrast, the club scene is like a bustling marketplace. As of 2021, there are over 4,400 soccer clubs worldwide, with a staggering 656 in Brazil alone. The abundance of clubs is partly because they can cherry-pick players from anywhere.

National teams, on the other hand, must field players of the same nationality, and players with dual citizenship get to choose their allegiance.

Of course, some nations have an edge due to their larger populations and economic power.

2. Player’s Age

Although Casey Phair became the youngest World Cup player at just 16, youngsters making it to national teams isn’t common.

For instance, the 2022 FIFA World Cup saw Iran fielding the oldest squad with an average age of 28.9, while Ghana had the youngest players at 24.7—almost a four-year age gap!

Women’s soccer teams aren’t that different, either. The 2023 FIFA World Cup featured players with an average age of 26.8. Those under 21 represented 14.9% only.

Clubs tend to follow a similar trend, but there’s a twist. You often see young stars under 21 shining on big stages, like the Premier League. That’s because clubs are always on the hunt for young talents.

National teams, on the other hand, rely on seasoned players in their prime, between the ages of 23 and 32.

Women Football Team Stretching Whilst Training for Soccer Match

3. Season Length and Schedule

National teams operate on a different calendar compared to club soccer. On average, teams competing on a global scale may squeeze in around 11 international games in a season.

However, there’s often little time between matches for training and preparation. That’s because there aren’t many national games to begin with—most of the events happen during the off-season.

Big sporting events like the World Cup only happen every four years. Plus, most footballers spend their time playing for their respective clubs.

Club soccer, on the other hand, is a different ball game. Premier League players, for example, gear up for an average of 38 matches in a season.

That number excludes face-offs with teams from other European leagues, like the high-stakes battles in the Champions League. This packed schedule allows for more training, team bonding, and time to fine-tune their playing style.

And that brings us to the next comparison: team dynamics and playing style!

4. Team Dynamics and Playing Style

When it comes to team dynamics and chemistry, national and club teams have their own rhythms.

In international soccer, you’re watching a carefully orchestrated game. Players from various clubs need to adapt to a more straightforward style of play.

Even if they’re used to intricate club tactics, managers often opt for a cautious approach. That’s because the stakes are higher and the pressure to perform is immense.

Now, club teams march to a different beat. Their playing style depends on the coach’s vision and tactics.

However, that doesn’t mean international soccer lacks excitement. It’s where unpredictability thrives—remember Morocco’s historic run as the first African team to reach the World Cup semifinals?

National squads also excel at converting opportunities. Don’t take our word for it. In the 2022 World Cup, we witnessed 172 goals, averaging 2.68 per match. That’s 0.01 higher than Manchester City, the highest-scoring club in 2023!

The women’s soccer scene had similar numbers, with an average of 2.56 goals per match.

5. Fanbase and Viewership

Young American woman cheering at stadium during USA national team soccer game

Soccer is the most loved sport worldwide. While dedicated fans easily connect with club soccer, national teams evoke even more passion.

For example, the 2022 World Cup was record-breaking. It had an incredible 96.3% attendance, with 3.4 million fans watching live. The historic final between France and Argentina was watched by a staggering 1.5 billion people around the globe!

These numbers are similar to the Premier League, the most-watched soccer league. English soccer witnesses an astonishing 643 million viewers per match. Not to mention, it has a worldwide TV audience of over 3.2 billion people.

Women’s soccer isn’t falling behind, either. The 2023 Women’s World Cup set a new viewership record with 93.5 million viewers, surpassing leagues like La Liga and other European soccer competitions.

The Final Score

When comparing soccer national teams vs. clubs, you can see they have several differences, including playing style and viewership.

Despite their differences, both offer thrilling moments, showcasing the beautiful game’s versatility.

So, whether you’re cheering for your nation or your local club, one thing is clear—soccer’s universal appeal continues to unite us all. It’s a winning score for fans worldwide!

This article was written by

  • Mia Johnson, Fitness Expert & Soccer Coach

    Hello! I'm Mia, a high school Physical Education teacher in Orlando, Florida by day and a soccer blog contributor by night. My journey with soccer began just like any other enthusiastic player - on a local field, chasing after a ball and dreaming big. Soccer became my way to teach, inspire, and connect with others. In addition to my role in education, I've taken my passion for soccer a step further by earning a coaching qualification. This badge not only represents my commitment to the sport...