Cap-tied is a term used in football to refer to a player that is no longer eligible to play for another FIFA-Affiliated National Team because they already represent another national team.
Origin of the term Cap-tied
The term is a play on another football term, Cup-Tied. With cup-tied a player who has played in a football cup during a knockout cup can no longer play for his new club in the remainder of that season’s cup competitions.
Cap-tied players are tied to the countries they play for. This ruling was implemented in 2004.
Why the Cap-tied Ruling Came to Be
Before implementing the Cap-tied ruling, there were no restrictions imposed by FIFA as to the number of national teams that players can represent.
The difference in citizenship laws from one country to another meant that players can essentially represent any country as long as they can prove affiliation.
An example of this was Alfredo Di Stefano who was an Argentine striker for Real Madrid. Before the implementation of the Cap-Tied ruling, Di Stefano played for three different national teams during his career.
Why Would a Player be Cap-Tied?
There are several reasons why a player would be Cap-tied. Players with dual citizenship, for example, would normally be eligible to play for both national teams. FIFA instead rules that the player should make a permanent choice as to which national team they choose to represent. He is not allowed to play for both national teams.
This is what happened to Mexican-American Los Angeles Galaxy player Efren Alvarez who was permanently cap-tied to play for the Mexican National Team in 2021.
Also, players who have played as part of a national team in an official FIFA competition are no longer allowed to represent another team, regardless of the level of the game and if they change national affiliations.