Factors underlying competitive success in youth football: A study of the Swedish national U15 football talent system

Tor Söderström
Peter Brusvik
Department of Education, Umeå University, Sweden
Stefan Lund
Department of Education, Linnaeus University, Sweden


This study of Sweden’s 24 football districts analyses whether contextual factors (number of players, number of elite teams, and number of elite players on each district team) influence the district teams’ relative age effect (RAE) and the way in which contextual factors and RAE correlate with the U15 teams’ competitive success. The analysis is based on register data on district players (4,516 girls and 4,501 boys, all 15 years old) who attended an annual elite football camp: birthdate, the total number of players aged 15, club membership, senior elite clubs, proportion of elite players on the district teams, and match outcomes. Based on the birthdates of the players born between 1986 and 1997, a relative age index was constructed for each district. The results showed a relative age effect (RAE) for the selected district players (boys and girls) compared to the general 15-year-old football population; however, birthdate only affected the competitive success of the boys’ district teams. The analysis points out that contextual factors such as the number of football players and the presence of elite clubs are important to consider in order to understand how RAE is produced and its relationship to the success of winning matches for boys’ district teams.


Click here to read this peer reviewed article in Scandinavian Sport Studies Forum, Vol. 10, 2019


TOR SÖDERSTRÖM is a Professor in Education at Umeå University.  His research concerns learning and development in higher education and sport, with a particular interest in the development of professional knowledge and skills. Current projects focuses on talent identification and talent development in sports. Over the years, he has contributed with book-chapters and journal articles related to these fields.

PETER BRUSVIK is a PhD student in the Department of Education. Umeå University, Sweden. His research interest focuses on drop-out and continuation processes in sports, particularly football.

STEFAN LUND is an Associate Professor in the Department of of Education and Teachers’ Practice at Linnaeus University, Sweden. His research interests include educational policy, school choice, school culture, multicultural incorporation, and sociology of sports. He has, for example, published School Choice, Ethnic Divisions and Symbolic Boundaries (2015) and articles in the Journal of Education Policy, Sociology of Sports, and Sports, Education and Society.


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