The days of a single club dominating women’s football, for the most part, are long gone.

Is age just a number?

Undergoing welcome development as the world’s top leagues have gradually become more competitive, it’s interesting to analyse and evaluate the level of progression using statistics.

From the top five leagues across the world (Sweden, France, USA, UK, Germany), the average age from 1,251 footballers was 24.1.

That’s a relatively young age and highlights just how difficult it can be for many women to earn competitive salaries that would allow them to pursue a long-term career in football. As a result, the financial development of these top-quality leagues should see a progress increase in the average player age over time.

The American’s Women’s National Soccer League (NWSL) has the oldest players in terms of squads (25.7 years old), and the only one out of the five where the average age of squads is greater than that on the pitch is England’s Women’s Super League (WSL), with 24.2 as opposed to 23.9 years old.

The average age on the pitch varies from club-to-club, though the gap between youngest and oldest team by league is significant everywhere except the US (2.6 years), where a more extensive history of professionalism explains why there is a higher number of seasoned players within their sides.

The club with the highest average age is Sweden’s Rosengård.

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Foreign presence

As a result of developments and progression, more players are making moves from nation to nation and an average of 5.1 players per team were playing outside of their country of birth.

This is at least one-fifth of the ladies’ first-team squad, and it occurs in all leagues apart from France’s Division 1 Féminine which has significantly fewer in comparison.

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In total, foreign players represent 22.3% of squads and play 26.3% of league minutes. Only five from the 55 sides analysed did not field any foreign players, three of which were from France.

Canada is the main exporter of footballers to the world’s top leagues, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise given how highly they’re rated in FIFA’s world ranking (5th) compared with the quality of their own domestic league, which has only started in recent years and is still far behind their counterparts.

One third of the teams that have been studied in this observation, are made up of footballers who have already played for their national side at senior level.

It’s just shy of 40% in the FA WSL, though international players unsurprisingly feature regularly in the NWSL and Germany’s Frauen Bundesliga, with both countries being seen as the world’s best quality-wise for women’s football.

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The most successful women’s teams field internationals across the pitch.

Lyon (97.7%) just retained the UEFA Women’s Champions League crown whilst VfL Wolfsburg (97.4%) won it consecutively in 2012/13 and 13/14, whilst also finishing as runners-up twelve months ago.

In conclusion

To conclude, it’s clear that the development of women’s football has added more of a competitive edge and that’s beneficial for the sport.

It’s more unpredictable and lacking the lucrative figures pumped into the men’s game, there are only a few players who have high wages in comparison to their counterparts.

It’s important that in future both sporting and economic development within the women’s game is not blocked and instead, time should be invested into helping players progress at a younger age across all countries, even where there may not be a fantastic league in terms of quality.

This costs money but will prove dividends in the long-run, increasing the level of competitiveness whilst more football clubs opt to spend more on their respective ladies’ teams.

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Football writer. Objective reviews and analysis of European football. Lifelong Arsenal fan, youth football enthusiast.