What Does 100 Caps Mean?

This is a revising of an earlier post I had whenever DeMarcus Beasley hit his 100th cap in the summer of 2013. Numbers are updated through 2015.

DeMarcus Beasley, Tim Howard, and Clint Dempsey all within the last two years reached their 100th appearance for the men's senior team. But what does this actually entail for players today? How hard of an achievement is this?

Over 700 different players have suited up for America, so being part of the top 2% is something special. However, no American athlete was in a position to reach 100 caps until 1998. In fact if you played every game from 1885 (USA's first match against Canada) until 1971, an incredible eighty-seven year career, you would still only have played 95 games. It wasn't until recently that the USMNT started playing enough games for a player to reach the milestone.

Number of games played by the USMNT each year

Number of games played by the USMNT each year

Looking at the graph, there are a few things we can immediately take away from the ascending line.

1. 1993 and 1994 had 35 games and 29 games, respectively. We haven't topped 24 games outside of those two years before or since. Clearly the team was aiming to be prepared before hosting the World Cup. Those that played during those two years had a nice boost in caps.

2. The average games per year jumps up around 1990. As the USMNT started becoming more of a serious contender on the international stage, the number of games rose at the same time. Again this can be tied to the World Cup bid as well.

3. The 1950 World Cup win over England seemed to have very little impact on the overall program. The men weren't playing that many games prior to (which you could attribute to the war) but also didn't really experience a consistent rise until forty years later. For example, no games were played at all in 1981.

4. The current games per year is hovering around 20. It'd be tough to add more games than 20 in 12 months. Granted, years with big tournaments will ramp it up but overall 16-20 should be the average.

So how does a player reach 100 caps? Let's take a look at twelve well-capped men, with six goalkeepers and six field players.

Field Players: Cobi Jones, Landon Donovan, Jeff Agoos, Marcelo Balboa, DaMarcus Beasley, and Clint Dempsey.

Goalkeepers: Tim Howard, Kasey Keller, Tony Meola, Brad Friedel, Arnie Mausser, and Brad Guzan.

The graph looks at the percent number of games played when a player is a respective age. Between the six field players, they played 74.1% of games when they were 25. The field players have a nice parabola while the goalkeepers' data is honestly not very good. With there only being one position and four of the six goalkeepers' careers overlapping, the data is warped. With better data, there should be less change between each year. However, it could conceivably make sense that late twenty year olds do not receive many caps. Younger goalkeepers get friendlies while older ones would get the high profile games. Theoretically, goalkeepers 26-29 could be in a bad age to get games with the national team.

Extracting from the above data, a field player's career typically spans from 19-34, while a goalkeepers' ranges from 19-38, which we'll set as a player's international playing career (IPC). However many games the USMNT plays when a player is 19-34 will be their IPC. Now we can parallel modern day players to historic paces to see how far they are along in their international career. The problem with 100 caps is that the nice, round milestone is hard to convert throughout time. What is the difference in getting 100 caps in 1990 versus 2015? It's annoying adjusting every year to the modern day pace so we'll use a simple leveling tool of taking 40% of a player's IPC to mark the 100 line. This actually works out nicely when we look at the previously mentioned field players' percentages: 

  • Cobi Jones (58%)
  • Landon Donovan (54%)
  • Jeff Agoos (47%)
  • Marcelo Balboa (45%)
  • DaMarcus Beasley (42%)
  • Clint Dempsey (41%). 

If there were 250 games in a player's IPC, then playing 40% would get them exactly to 100. Currently, the US plays a little more than 250 games in a player's ICP but we'll still use 40% of available games as our baseline.

Now we can take the true cap total of a player, compare it to how many games they played in their career, then weigh it accordingly. Increasing or decreasing a player's cap total asks the question, "What if they only had 250 games to play in their career?" Our answer will be the WCT, a weighted cap total (WCT). If a player has a WCT over 100, they played over 40% of the games in their IPC. Using this method, early twentieth century players have a chance at passing the 100 cap mark.

Player Caps Born 100-Equiv WCT
Ed Murphy 17 1930 8 213
Walter Bahr 19 1927 12 164
John Souza 14 1920 9 152
Harry Keough 17 1927 12 147
Cobi Jones 164 1970 114 144
Landon Donovan 157 1982 117 134
Manuel Martin 9 1917 7 132
Benny McLaughlin 12 1928 9 130
Fernando Clavijo 61 1956 49 124
Charlie Colombo 11 1920 9 120
Jeff Agoos 134 1968 114 118
Marcelo Balboa 128 1967 113 113
Claudio Reyna 112 1973 101 111
Paul Caligiuri 110 1964 99 111
DaMarcus Beasley 123 1982 117 105
Tom Florie 8 1897 8 105
Boris Bandov 33 1953 34 98
Carlos Bocanegra 110 1979 114 97
Thomas Dooley 81 1961 85 96
Eric Wynalda 106 1969 115 92
Joe-Max Moore 100 1971 111 90
Earnie Stewart 101 1969 115 88
Frankie Hejduk 87 1974 100 87
Brian McBride 95 1972 109 87
Alexi Lalas 96 1970 114 85
Eddie Lewis 82 1974 100 82
Willy Roy 20 1943 24 82
Desmond Armstrong 81 1964 99 82
Eddie Pope 82 1973 101 81
Bruce Murray 86 1966 106 81
Bill Sheppell 10 1926 12 81
John Harkes 90 1967 113 80
Steve Cherundolo 87 1979 114 77
Tab Ramos 81 1966 106 76
Hugo Perez 73 1963 98 75
Chris Henderson 79 1970 114 70

While Paul Caliguri's true cap total is 110, his WCT is 111 because he had less opportunities to get to 100 than those that followed him, although by only a few games. On the reverse side, Carlos Bocanegra's 110 caps drops to a 97 WCT because he had more games to play in. Bocanegra's IPC is 284 while Caliguri's is only 248.

As for goalkeepers, they're a little more tricky. It's harder for them to get to 100 caps, weighted or unweighted, because they can't slide to another position on the field. Only one can play and it's rare to see one subbed at halftime. So for now, we're going to apply the 40% rule to them as well but knowing we can probably drop it to 30% if we are truly trying to find an even bar for everyone to pass.

Player Caps Born 100-Equiv WCT
Walter Bahr 19 1927 12 164
Jimmy Douglas 9 1898 8 118
Arnie Mausser 35 1954 37 94
Kasey Keller 102 1969 115 89
Tony Meola 100 1969 115 87
Frank Borghi 9 1925 12 75
Brad Friedel 82 1971 111 74

And lastly, here are the top active players with high projected WCT paces.

Player Caps Born 100-Equiv Real Pace WCT Pace
Jozy Altidore 91 1989 118 177 151
Rubio Rubin 3 1996 117 175 150
DeAndre Yedlin 29 1993 117 169 144
Michael Bradley 111 1987 116 164 141
Clint Dempsey 120 1983 118 127 108
DaMarcus Beasley 123 1982 117 127 108
Tim Howard 106 1979 114 111 98
John Brooks 18 1993 117 105 89
Julian Green 5 1995 116 89 77
Mix Diskerud 37 1990 119 85 71
Jordan Morris 9 1994 118 84 71
Brek Shea 34 1990 119 78 66
Juan Agudelo 20 1992 117 77 66

Several players are very early in their careers so take those single digit cappers with a grain of salt. Altidore has a great head start into his career and should hit 100 real caps before he turns 27. He also has a shot of surpassing Cobi Jones' 164. His 151 WCT Pace, if fulfilled, would put him fourth all-time.

Notice the 100 cap equivalent (100-Equiv) is much higher as the current USMNT is playing more games now. For someone born in 1980, there were 288 games in their IPC. For Jozy to get a 100 WCT, he needs to play 118 games.

 

USWNT Update

Last updated December 31, 2016

With Christie Rampone's retirement announcement, it's a good time to look at what 100 caps means for the USWNT.

While the chaotic games-per-year for the USWNT scheduling stands out, it's also worth noting the USWNT's IPC is significantly higher than the USMNT's (384 to 284). Following the same standard of a player needing to play 40% of the available games from when they are 19-34 and 30% of games from 19-38 for goalkeepers, this is what the USWNT's top 50 WCTs would look like.

A little bit of reshuffling, especially with the more recent players taking a nerf hit but nothing that just flips the list upside down. Here are the top active players and their current pace.

Player Caps Born 100-Equiv WCT
1. Kristine Lilly 354 1971 123 287
2. Christie Rampone 311 1975 134 232
3. Julie Foudy 272 1971 123 221
4. Joy Fawcett 239 1968 111 216
5. Mia Hamm 275 1972 132 208
6. Brandi Chastain 192 1968 111 173
7. Abby Wambach 255 1980 154 166
8. Carli Lloyd 232 1982 147 158
9. Tiffeny Milbrett 204 1972 132 155
10. Kate Markgraf 201 1976 132 152
11. Michelle Akers 155 1966 102 152
12. Carla Overbeck 168 1968 111 152
13. Heather O'Reilly 231 1985 153 151
14. Hope Solo 202 1981 142 143
15. Shannon Boxx 195 1977 138 142
16. Briana Scurry 173 1971 123 140
17. Shannon MacMillan 176 1974 138 128
18. Cindy Parlow 158 1978 134 118
19. Carin Gabarra 117 1965 101 116
20. Heather Mitts 137 1978 134 102
21. Tisha Venturini 132 1973 140 95
22. Cat Whitehill 134 1982 147 91
23. Lorrie Fair 120 1978 134 90
24. Lauren Holiday 133 1987 153 87
25. Aly Wagner 131 1980 154 85
26. Amy Rodriguez 129 1987 153 84
27. Tobin Heath 128 1988 153 84
28. Lindsay Tarpley 125 1983 152 82
29. Angela Hucles 109 1978 134 81
30. Tiffany Roberts 110 1977 138 80
31. Alex Morgan 120 1989 152 79
32. Becky Sauerbrunn 119 1985 153 78
33. Megan Rapinoe 117 1985 153 77
34. Rachel Van Hollebeke 113 1985 153 74
35. Lori Chalupny 106 1984 153 69
36. Linda Hamilton 82 1969 124 66
37. Ali Krieger 96 1984 153 63
38. Stephanie Cox 89 1986 148 60
39. Kelley O'Hara 91 1988 153 60
40. Amy LePeilbet 84 1982 147 57
41. April Heinrichs 46 1964 87 53
42. Christen Press 80 1988 153 52
43. Sydney Leroux 75 1990 146 51
44. Sara Whalen 65 1976 132 49
45. Debbie Rademacher 50 1966 102 49
46. Thori Staples 64 1974 138 47
47. Shannon Higgins 51 1968 111 46
48. Meghan Klingenberg 70 1988 153 46
49. Natasha Kai 67 1983 152 44
50. Amanda Cromwell 55 1970 126 44

I subbed in 250 for Mallory Pugh's pace as her current pace is actually over 7000. 19 years olds, on average, have a total of .23% of their final cap count so it's tough to say at this point for any college-aged player.

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Player Caps Born 100-Equiv Real Pace WCT Pace
Heather O'Reilly 231 1985 153 292 191
Carli Lloyd 232 1982 147 251 171
Mallory Pugh 17 1998 150 250* 167
Alex Morgan 120 1989 152 242 159
Hope Solo 202 1981 142 212 149
Tobin Heath 128 1988 153 219 143
Morgan Brian 63 1993 154 215 139
Amy Rodriguez 129 1987 153 201 131
Sydney Leroux 75 1990 146 164 112
Lindsey Horan 30 1994 150 154 103
Kelley O'Hara 91 1988 153 156 102
Becky Sauerbrunn 119 1985 153 151 99
Megan Rapinoe 117 1985 153 148 97
Christen Press 80 1988 153 137 90
Julie Johnston 45 1992 153 124 81
Crystal Dunn 45 1992 153 124 81
Meghan Klingenberg 70 1988 153 120 78
Ali Krieger 96 1984 153 113 74