Average Height In Soccer: Does Height Matter?

Height is something that plays a role in just about every sport out there. It’s especially true for contact sports, as players are going up against others who might have some type of physical difference that gives them an edge.

Height in soccer varies quite a bit, and it seems like one of the only sports that allows smaller athletes to compete against taller ones on a fairly even playing field. What is the average height in soccer? Does height actually matter?

The average height in soccer is right around 5‘11“ (181cm). Shorter players tend to be mostly upfront, while teams get taller and taller going all the way back to the goalkeeper. Some of the best players in the world have been undersized, but certain positions have additional benefits to being taller.

Average Height of Each Position

The importance of how tall a player is depends largely on the position. Take a look at this list to get a better understanding.

Here’s the average height for each position in soccer:

PositionAverage Height
Goalkeeper188cm (6‘2“)
Defender183cm (6‘0“)
Midfielder180cm (5‘11“)
Striker181cm (5‘11“)
This data is based on the players participating in the FIFA World Cup 2018

What Are The Advantages To Being a Tall Soccer Player?

Having height can make a difference in most sports, but advantages in soccer aren’t quite as pronounced (apart from goalkeepers).

With that being said, it helps to have a little bit of extra height to make a difference in some situations. These are the biggest advantages of being a tall soccer player.

Heading

Winning a ball in the air is much easier when a player has a height advantage. While it still requires some timing and jumping at the right time, taller players have a built-in head start.

This is why in certain scenarios, defenders, who are usually a little bit taller, can find some goal-scoring opportunities near the net.

Leg Length

Having extra length in the legs helps when it comes to winning and controlling the ball at certain times. Players can reach balls just a little bit easier, and it helps on both sides as well.

Being able to fight for a ball without making too much physical contact is very beneficial if done correctly. Taller players who learn to use their bodies to their advantage will drive opponents crazy.

Strength

Most taller soccer players are also stronger because of their height advantage. Their body is able to carry more weight, and they have some leverage on their shorter opponents.

Even if a player is extremely skinny and tall, they can still have some strength that will allow them to have success.

Too many people overlook the importance of having strength in soccer. There are a lot of individual battles that must be won to win the match eventually.

Reach (Goalkeepers)

Reach makes a big difference at just one position soccer, but it’s a pretty big advantage when used correctly. In a game of inches, getting a fingertip on a ball can be the difference in a match.

Taller goalkeepers have the opportunity to excel in the game. There’s a reason why goaltenders are almost always one of the tallest players on a team. Height is usually connected to a longer reach and larger hands to grab and control shots sent towards the net.

Goalkeepers can be over 6’6” tall if they are agile enough to have quick reactions. Teams seem to favor taller, lengthier players in goal in the modern game. Balls are flying way too fast for smaller goalkeepers to keep up.

What Are The Advantages To Being a Short Soccer Player?

Some of the best players in soccer history have been on the shorter side, so there must be some advantages. Can shorter players still succeed today?

These are just a few reasons how smaller players still find ways to have the advantage.

Speed

Shorter players aren’t automatically faster and quicker than taller players, but they usually seem to have a bit of a speed advantage. This is especially true in soccer, as there are a lot of quick bursts in action.

Longer strides might seem like they would be beneficial to cover ground, but players also need to be able to control the ball and change direction quickly. Taller players struggle with this, and it’s why they often have trouble keeping control of the ball when moving around and having pressure on them.

Acceleration is really the key with shorter players. They can get to where they need to be very quickly without wasting a lot of extra time. Having a good amount of balance also helps with takeoff speed, which could be the difference between getting to a ball and missing out.

Lower Center of Gravity

Having a lower center of gravity can come in handy as a soccer player. Since the ball is almost always on the ground, being able to quickly maneuver around the pitch on both sides of the ball is very beneficial.

It makes it harder for defenders to make a play, and offenses find it very hard to get by certain players.

Ball Control

It’s been touched on a bit already, but ball control is definitely a very great quality to have overall. Being able to take shorter steps and have more touch on the ball allows for better control overall.

Some of the toughest offensive players in soccer history have been able to knife through the defense because they are small and agile. By being able to maneuver with the ball and put it wherever they want, it’s very easy for them to have success.

Do Taller Teams Have More Success?

When looking at all 11 players on the pitch, the truth is that it’s better to have a taller than average team. That’s because while some positions have a lot of success at a shorter height, others can benefit from being a little bit taller.

The players who get all the headlines and score a lot of goals generally get away with being shorter. However, the backbone of a team should be a bit on the taller side, and that’s especially true for the goalkeeper.

The main reason why is that most matches come down to those goal-scoring opportunities that are so big. For example, on corner kicks, teams are always trying to get the height advantage. Soccer is also becoming more physical, and height usually outlasts those battles.

Liverpool FC is one of the most successful clubs in the last couple of years, and the average height in the squad is 182.1cm (5′ 11.7″).

Are Taller Players Referred Differently?

In just about any sport, it’s always tougher to see the amount of contact on a bigger player instead of a smaller player. In soccer, that’s especially true, as players like to throw their body around a bit so that they can draw fouls.

It’s one of the biggest complaints about soccer in general, and when there is a major height discrepancy, it can even be a bigger issue.

Unfortunately, taller players feel the need to exaggerate calls at times so they can get a call or two. If a smaller player doesn’t really move them when making contact, they are never going to get any calls. They still are entitled to their positioning when fighting for a spot.

The Final Word on Height In Soccer

Compared to many other contact sports out there, soccer is the one where height doesn’t exactly matter. At least, that’s somewhat true, as there are positions for just about any type of athlete.

Very tall and lanky players can succeed in goal, and slightly above average height players can do well on defense. Offensively, smaller players can find plenty of success, but it mostly comes down to overall soccer skill at the end of the day.

Connor Smith

I'm Connor, the guy behind SoccerPrime. I'm a former NCAA Div 1 college player that retired at the age of 21 due to injuries - which led me into a new career as a soccer coach.

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