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.
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.
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.
And lastly, here are the top active players with high projected WCT paces.
|Player||Caps||Born||100-Equiv||Real Pace||WCT Pace|
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.
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.
|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|
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||Real Pace||WCT Pace|
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.