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Soccer: How to Spot an Elite Player

Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, and, since it is played by so many people, we can safely say that reaching an elite level can very difficult.  When a child first starts playing soccer, becoming an elite player is probably not what they initially are, or should be thinking about.  Building skills, coordination, conditioning, and having fun, should be the main focus for a young soccer player. 

As players advance and age, tryouts and scouts typically whittle down the numbers of soccer players, picking the most skilled kids for Olympic Development or other elite travel teams or school teams.  This is where it becomes apparent that there are millions of very good/excellent soccer players, but that to stand out will take a combination of determination, incredible mental and technical skills and conditioning.  The odds of making  a national team in order to play internationally are even longer.

Here is what makes an elite soccer player:

  • Excellent Conditioning.  The "work rate" of an elite soccer player is extraordinarily high.  They have to have the ability to run at full speed up and down the soccer pitch for 90 minutes with very little recovery time, often traveling several miles over the course of a game.  This requires incredible cardiovascular/aerobic fitness.

  • Excellent Ball Handling Skills.  An elite soccer player can do things with a soccer ball that are simply amazing.  They need to be able to make pin-point passes, often over long distances, stop ("settle") a ball by using their feet, chest and other parts of their body (not the hands of course), pass with the front and back of the foot.

  • Strong, powerful legs. Excellent foot speed is obviously essential for soccer players at the elite level.

  • Excellent mental toughness (abililty to stay focused, determination, competitive spirit, ability to perform under pressure)

  • Strong, but not over developed arms

  • Team oriented (not ball hogs)

  • Ability to see the whole field and play a ball to space; creativity

  • Excellent tactical skills and knowledge of the game.

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