What is the Average Career Length of a Soccer Player?

Kjaer of Denmark challenges Mandzukic of Croatia during the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia.

Whether you have an interest in going pro or not, it’s natural to wonder how many years an average soccer player will be active in the sport.

It’s common knowledge to know that a career playing sports is usually short-lived. Sometimes, it can even make you wonder if going pro is even worth it.

In this article, we’re going to look into the not-so-talked-about aspect of the sport—and that’s the longevity of careers.

Way too many people romanticize going pro, claiming that chasing your dreams is going to be worth it, but is it?

We’re going to look into the average career length of professional players. We’re also going to discuss the work opportunities that await them on the other side of the goal line.

Average Career Length

The average career length is about 8 years or so. Unfortunately, it’s hard to get an exact number because of the influx of new players in the sport. But generally, the average is typically in this range, which is 8 years.

The average age for retirement in soccer is around 35 years old.

I know what you’re thinking—this is way too young. And you’re right.

But you have to consider that soccer is a physically demanding sport. The decline starts right when you hit your early 30s.

That being said, this is just a general figure, and in no way a guarantee. Some players would play way past the 8-year average. In fact, the oldest soccer player is still playing today at 54 years of age. 

The name is Kazuyoshi Miura. He’s been playing since 1986, which gives him an impressive 34 years in the game and still counting.

Why Do Footballers Retire?

Zinedine Zidane, French former professional football player and recent coach of Real Madrid, watching a game intently from the seats.

There are two main reasons why footballers retire: old age and injury.

There’s a popular saying, “Father time is unbeatable,” and it rings true to this day. Father time (old age) is that one enemy no one can beat. Fortunately, players can still achieve a lot of things before Father Time begins to show its effects.

As for the injury, this one’s a bit tricky. There really is no way of telling when an injury is about to strike. Soccer is a physical and contact sport that even if all the players play as cleanly as they can, accidents and injuries will still happen.

Luckily, medicine has come a long way in treating injuries. But even then, the player will eventually be too old to play.

Do Positions Play a Part?

Yes. In soccer, several positions need to be filled, each one more demanding than the last.

For instance, goalkeepers tend to have longer playing careers than outfield players for obvious reasons. The physical toll on their body is considerably less than their teammates. Don’t get me wrong, goalkeeping is still a taxing task but clearly not as demanding as a midfielder.

Outfielders are not graded equally, too. Defensive players, on average, will have longer careers than offensive players. The reason being the same as stated above—it’s less demanding physically.

Factors for Early Retirement

Apart from the old age and injury reasons, there are also other factors affecting retirement.

Skill Decline

A sad professional soccer player sitting on the field, contemplating the decline of his skill after losing the game.

One good reason is the decline of skills. There are some cases in which a player’s skill declines a lot faster than anticipated. It may be due to bad training, diet, or a change in position. Nevertheless, these things do happen and can bring retirement sooner.

Medical Condition

Medical issue is another reason why players might retire early. There have been plenty of cases of players retiring just before their career blossoms because of a rare medical condition.


If you’re into any sport, you must know the issue of doping. Performance-enhancing drugs are frowned upon in any sport, maybe apart from bodybuilding, but I digress.

Over the years, plenty of players have been popped for illegal substances (PEDs), which resulted in them getting a suspension, or in some cases, getting thrown out of the league indefinitely.

The guidelines are very strict about doping, and the punishment is just as severe.

Career and Jobs Following Retirement

I would be lying if I say there are plenty of career opportunities for soccer players that have just retired. 

Maybe if we’re looking at the top soccer players, I can say that opportunities are flowing. But the sad reality is there are only limited slots for soccer players after retirement, and most have something to do with football.

There simply aren’t enough jobs for all professional footballer-retirees, truth be told.

Still, we’re going to list some popular career choices by soccer retirees. Bear in mind that I am only considering the top soccer players. Players in the lower league are likely to shift careers or work on their original vocation instead of continuing soccer.


Andrea Pirlo, head coach of Serie A club Juventus, talking to Cristiano Ronaldo.

Some ex-players go straight into a coaching gig, depending on their ‘eye for the game.’ 

Rarely would you see someone go straight into head coaching, though. In the majority of these hirings, they start out as assistant coaches and work their way up.

They say that star players are not fit to coach because they expect all the players to have the same talent as them. I sort of agree on that part.

The best players-turned-coaches usually are guys who have average playing careers.


Most notable managers have at least played some level of professional football. Being a manager is a lucrative career since it allows the retiree to experience soccer from a different point of view.

Instead of managing plays on the field, he now gets to manage players on the club. It’s a job that commands respect, and in some cases, fear.

This is a big role. Most ex-players start at a much smaller role then work their way up top. No player can jump into the managerial role directly from playing the field.


This has more to do with the charisma and television appeal of the player rather than their play on the field.

Most of the time, it’s quite obvious whose players are going to end up at the broadcaster’s table. Some players are just natural on TV, and it shows.


A soccer analyst commentator for TV and radio, watching a soccer match intently from his seat.

This role is not for everybody, but a rewarding gig nonetheless.

This gig can be separated into two distinct jobs: an analyst commentator or an ‘analytics’ analyst.

An analyst commentator, as the title suggests, is just analyzing the play on the field. Ex-players will give their thoughts on the play using their experience, usually on TV. It’s on par with broadcasting work.

The other analyst role has more in common with the managerial role. They need to analyze plays and give references to which play is needed for specific defensive schemes, and vice versa. 

Specialized Club-Based Role

This role is not exactly defined. Most of the club-based roles are centered around being ambassadors of the team.

Plenty of ex-players now work as ambassadors for their clubs. It’s not a gig as glamorous as managing a club, but it is still centered around football, which is nice.

Scouting Role

Another good career choice for ex-players is scouting.

Professional players are ultra-talented, which makes them perfect for this role. They can easily spot talent from a mile away, thanks to their experience.

Football Journalist

Ex-players can make good money by providing content for soccer fans around the world. 

There are plenty of magazines, newspapers, and Internet media that are willing to pay good money to have the voice of an ex-player on their print.

A soccer player wearing soccer cleats, about to kick the ball toward the goal, with the goalie blocking it.

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