Is There a Best Height for a Soccer Player?

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Is there a best height for soccer players?  According to Richard Witzig in “The Global Art of Soccer”, footballers have ranged from 5’6″ to 6’2″ tall.  This is a range that some 95% of the World’s population meets! 

Mom and Dad measuring their boy and girl's heights

American football and basketball players are typically much taller and stronger than the majority of the population. Soccer players tend to fall more in the average heights.

Purists may argue that size does not matter when it comes to football. They believe talent is the main arbiter as to whether somebody will succeed at the top level. Despite this, research indicates that players are tending to grow both taller and leaner.

This can be attributed to the evolution of the game in the past few decades. 

The average professional footballer now covers 50% more distance during a 90-minute game than his peers in the late 1960s. Footballers are not only running longer, but they are also having to do so at greater speeds.

The number of sprints and high-intensity playing activities performed by players has nearly doubled since 2002. 

Statistics indicate that the ball is in play and lives almost 15 minutes longer than in 1990, an increase of 17%.

To succeed at the highest level, players need not to be fitter and with greater powers of stamina and endurance, but they need to be more athletic in build, more agile, and require greater powers of mental concentration.

Elite players no longer just have the luxury of allowing the running to be done by their teammates. Modern coaches demand that they are prepared to do their own share of hard work as well – there is no room for passengers in the modern game. 

Differences in Physiques by Position

There are differences in physiques depending on the position played.  Goalies, center-backs, and strikers are typically taller players.  They also tend to be more muscular than wingers or full-backs. Even so, the average player now is both taller and stronger than his equivalents of yesteryear.  This would shift the numbers of what we consider to be the best height for soccer players.

Clubs have also begun to increase their emphasis on nutrition and diet. This has been a fairly recent development that is making differences in player size.

Arsène Wenger first took over as manager at Arsenal in 1996. He was alarmed to discover the lack of nutritional awareness among the squad he inherited. Wenger immediately banned chocolate, seasoning in food and the drinking culture. This was huge. Many players, at most clubs, were known for drinking heavily. This was a part of the culture at the time.

A quarter of a century later the landscape has changed completely. Clubs now offer nutritional advice to players and the more wealthy employ full-time nutritionists to prepare individual diet plans for players.

The days of top footballers coming back from their summer vacations 10+ lbs overweight are over.


Professional players now realize that they need to stay in shape 365 days a year. Many professionals t is not unusual to see them working out even on vacation.

That does not mean there is no room in the game for the players who do not fit the physical mold.

Lionel Messi, for example, is just 5 feet 7 inches tall (1.70 meters), whilst West Ham’s Manuel Lanzini is an inch shorter. Neither of them would fit what we consider the best height for soccer.

They are the exceptions, not the rule though, and it is undoubtedly true that the trend will continue towards taller, leaner, more athletic players. 

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