Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Relative age, maturation, and physical biases on position allocation in elite-youth soccer

Towlson, Chris; Cobley, Stephen; Midgley, Adrian; Garrett, Andrew; Parkin, Guy; Lovell, Ric


Stephen Cobley

Adrian Midgley

Profile Image

Dr Andrew Garrett
Senior Lecturer in Exercise and Environmental Physiology

Guy Parkin

Ric Lovell


This study assessed the contribution of relative age, anthropometry, maturation, and physical fitness characteristics on soccer playing position (goalkeeper [GK], central-defender [CD], lateral-defender [LD], central midfield [CM], lateral-midfielder [LM], and forward [FWD]) for 465 elite youth players (U13-U18`s). U13-14 CD were relatively older than LD and CM (likely small effects). CD and GK were generally taller and heavier (likely small to very-likely moderate effects) than other players at each developmental stage and were advanced maturers at U13-14 (very-likely small to likely moderate effects). GK had inferior agility (very-likely small to likely moderate effects), endurance (very-likely small to likely moderate effects), and sprint capacities (likely small-moderate effects) versus outfield positions at U13-14, but deficits in anaerobic phenotypes were diminished in U15-16 and U17-18. Position specific fitness characteristics were distinguished at U15-16 (likely small) and U17-18 (likely moderate), where LM were faster than their central counterparts. In summary, relative age, maturation and anthropometric characteristics appear to bias the allocation of players into key defensive roles from an early development stage, whereas position-specific physical attributes do not become apparent until the latter stages of talent development in outfield players. Given the inter-individual trajectories of physical development according to biological maturation, playing position allocation might be considered ‘plastic’ by selectors, until complete-maturity is achieved


Towlson, C., Cobley, S., Midgley, A., Garrett, A., Parkin, G., & Lovell, R. (2017). Relative age, maturation, and physical biases on position allocation in elite-youth soccer. International journal of sports medicine, 38(3), 201-209.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 3, 2016
Online Publication Date Feb 20, 2017
Publication Date Feb 20, 2017
Deposit Date Oct 18, 2016
Publicly Available Date Oct 27, 2022
Journal International journal of sports medicine
Print ISSN 0172-4622
Electronic ISSN 1439-3964
Publisher Thieme Gruppe
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 38
Issue 3
Pages 201-209
Keywords Talent identification; Anthropometry; Fitness; Relative age effect; Maturity
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Authors' accepted manuscript of article published in: International journal of sports medicine, 2017, v.38, issue 3.


You might also like

Downloadable Citations