Want to Play in Serie A? All roads lead to Rome, but the highway goes through Montevideo

Last year I looked at which countries are best at producing players for Serie A, and this fact may or may not surprise you: Italy only comes second on the list. Yes, in terms of sheer numbers Italy comes out on top. But in terms of players produced per capita your chances of turning out for Juve, Inter, AC MIlan, et al are actually better if you were born in Uruguay.

I based this conclusion on league appearances in the 2014-2015 season.  In order to be counted, a player had to have appeared in at least one league game during that season.  Yes, I did check where each player was born, but that was as meticulous as the research got.  I’m not beyond relying on Wikipedia for other data. (I do have a job)

Twelve Uruguayan born players took the pitch in Serie A during the 2014-2015 season. Based on a current Uruguayan population estimate of 3.324 Million people, and assuming half of those Uruguayans are male, that means there was one Uruguayan who appeared in Serie A for every 138,500 Uruguayan males.  Granted, the statistical advantage for Uruguayans is slight… the ratio is 1:140,082 for Italians.  But it is still pretty amazing accomplishment for Uruguayan football development, particularly when compared to their Argentinian rivals.  Despite being the most common nationality for foreign born players in Serie A, the Argentine ratio is a surprisingly weak 1:547,044. On a per capita basis, Uruguayans are more than three times as likely to play in Serie A than their bitter rivals.

Okay, so when dealing with a country the size of Uruguay, the sample size is always going to prove problematic and the data can be taken with a grain of salt. But when you look at the historical numbers, Uruguay’s contribution to Serie A is even more impressive.  According to stats gleaned from Wikipedia, the country that boasted a population of just over a million people when in won the first World Cup in 1930 has sent a grand total of 154 players to Serie A, including those Oriundi who would become naturalized Italian citizens.  The Argentines, by contrast, have sent 314 players to Serie A. Twice as many, but again they have always had more than ten times the population Uruguay has.



  Italian born Uruguayan born Argentine born
Players with at least one league appearance in Serie A during the 2014/2015 season  







  Italy Uruguay Argentina
Estimated 2014










  Italy Uruguay Argentina
Ratio of Serie A players to total male population


1:140,083 1:138,500  



Uruguay’s success at developing players for Italian soccer did not surprise me, in fact the data was collected in order to settle a bet with an Anorak who… as it turns out…. doesn’t quite know-it-all.

But the scale at which such a small country can continually punch above it’s weight is staggering to me, Especially in comparison to the USA, which has sent a grand total of three players to Serie A in my lifetime… and one of those was Alexi Lalas.  At least now with Guiseppe Rossi back this year, we actually have a ratio: 1 in 155 million.



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