This study aims to compare peak speeds, maximal accelerations, and decelerations during football matches and field tests among young players divided into age-categories (U15, U17, U19, and U21).
Performance variables were analyzed during competition across the season. Differences between groups of maximal speeds and accelerations capacities were assessed with field tests (0–30 m and 0–5 m). Differences were estimated with independent mean differences.
During matches, U15 reached lower peak speeds than U17 (ES [90% CI]: 0.65 [0.40–0.92]), U19 (ES: 0.77 [0.52–1.03]), and U21 (ES: 0.56 [0.32–0.81]), lower maximal acceleration magnitudes than U17 (ES: 0.32 [0.06–0.58]) and U19 (ES: 0.27 [0.03–0.52]), but higher than U21 (ES: 0.08 [0.00–0.48]) and lower maximal deceleration magnitudes than U17 (ES: 0.71 [0.45–0.98]) and U19 (ES: 0.51 [0.27–0.76]), but higher than U21 (ES: 0.08 [0.16–0.32]). Differences between U17, U19, and U21 of peak speeds and maximal accelerations were unclear. U21 reached higher maximal decelerations than U17 (ES: 0.77 [0.47–1.09]) and U19 (ES: 0.58 [0.30–0.88]), while the difference between U17 and U19 was unclear. Field tests showed better performances as the age increased.
During football matches, players may face opportunities to achieve higher speeds and higher accelerations and decelerations. Field tests portrait players’ capacities, but the expression of those capacities is dependent of the match context. Tactical approaches can be prepared according to players’ capacities and match characteristics of the specific age group.