Are Soccer and Futsal Affected by the Relative Age Effect? The Portuguese Football Association Case

Pedro Figueiredo, André Seabra, Marta Brito, Marta Galvão, João Brito

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


A better understanding of the relative age effect (RAE) in youth will increase the awareness of the need for reducing the bias of (de)selection. Thus, we investigated the RAE in youth female and male soccer and futsal players in Portugal, using nationwide data. Birthdates of 5,306 female and 126,285 male soccer players, and 2,437 female and 23,988 male futsal players (U7–U19), registered in Portugal during the season 2019–2020, and Portuguese National teams (from U15 to AA soccer teams and from U17 to AA futsal teams) were analyzed. Data were categorized into age groups and certification levels [no certification, basic football training center, football school, and training institution] of the respective clubs/academies. Birthdates were stratified from the start of the selection year using quartiles (Q) and semesters (S). Differences between the observed and expected birthdate distributions were analyzed using chi-square statistics, and RAEs were calculated using odds ratios (OR). In both soccer and futsal, female players, in the age category U9, RAEs were found (Q1 vs. Q4, OR: 1.49 and 1.84, respectively). In male soccer, differences in the birthdate distribution were observed in all age categories (U7–U19) with significant OR between all comparisons (Q and S). In contrast, an over-representation of young male futsal players (Q1 vs. Q4) was observed only in the age categories U7 and U9 (OR: 1.54 and 1.34, respectively). The stratification by certification level showed a significant RAE for all certification levels in male soccer players. In contrast, in male futsal players, the RAE was significant only in clubs and academies with the highest level. For National teams, the RAE was more pronounced in male soccer, particularly in the U16 and U17 (OR: 9.84 and 12.36, respectively). Data showed a RAE in female and male youth soccer and futsal, particularly in male, younger age categories, and in clubs and academies having a higher certification level, which could be accompanied by a loss of valuable elite players during the youth phase of their careers. Thus, adjustments in the systems and structure of talent identification are recommended to prevent RAE-related discrimination in youth soccer and futsal.

Original languageEnglish
Article number679476
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - May 28 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • birthdate
  • football
  • gender
  • player selection
  • youth development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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