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The National Sport of Costa Rica is Soccer.

Soccer in Costa Rica is a passion, weaving together communities and fostering national pride.

To learn more about sports culture in Costa Rica, read our article about the most popular sports in Costa Rica.


#1 History of Soccer

  • Early 1900s: Soccer was introduced to Costa Rica by European settlers and immigrants.
  • 1921: The Costa Rican Football Federation (Federación Costarricense de Fútbol) was founded to govern and organize soccer in the country.
  • 1930: Costa Rica participated in their first international soccer competition at the Central American and Caribbean Games.
  • 1953: The Primera División, Costa Rica’s top soccer league, was established.
  • 1990: The Costa Rican national team qualified for their first FIFA World Cup, reaching the round of 16.
  • 2014: Costa Rica achieved their best ever World Cup finish, making it to the quarterfinals in Brazil.

#2 Culture and Traditions

Soccer is an integral part of Costa Rica’s cultural identity, being passed down through generations and uniting people across social and economic divides. It serves as a common ground for forging friendships, celebrating victories, and expressing national pride.

Costa Rican soccer culture includes vibrant pre-game festivities, where fans gather to eat local cuisine, dance, and share their passion for the sport. During international tournaments, large outdoor screens are set up in public spaces for fans to enjoy the games together in a festive atmosphere.

Major soccer events in Costa Rica include the national team’s World Cup qualifiers, the Primera División championship, and the classic rivalry between the country’s two biggest clubs, Liga Deportiva Alajuelense and Deportivo Saprissa.

#3 How it Works: Rules, Gameplay and Equipment

📕 Rules & Gameplay

  • Match Duration: A standard match consists of two halves, each lasting 45 minutes, with a 15-minute break in between.
  • Objective: Each team tries to score by getting the ball into the opposing team’s goal.
  • Players: Each team has 11 players, including one goalkeeper.
  • Offside: A player is offside if they are nearer to the opponent’s goal than both the ball and the second last opponent when the ball is played to them.
  • Fouls: Direct and indirect free-kicks and penalty kicks are awarded for infringements of the rules.

⚙️ Equipment & Gear

  • Ball: Round and made of leather or another suitable material.
  • Goalposts: Located at each end of the field, they are 7.32 meters wide and 2.44 meters tall.
  • Kits: Teams wear distinguishing kits, with goalkeepers wearing different colors to stand out.
  • Shin Guards: Protection for players from potential tackles or hits.
  • Boots: Specialized shoes designed for the sport’s requirements.

#4 Modern Development of Soccer

Costa Rican soccer has experienced significant growth in recent decades, with increased professionalism and more competitive domestic and national teams. The sport has garnered greater recognition both locally and internationally, with Costa Rican players making an impact in foreign leagues, especially in Major League Soccer (MLS).

Technological advancements, such as the implementation of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) and goal-line technology, have contributed to maintaining the integrity and fair play in Costa Rican soccer. These technologies are increasingly becoming a part of domestic competitions and international tournaments involving the national team.

In recent decades, women’s soccer has gained momentum in Costa Rica, with the women’s national team qualifying for the FIFA Women’s World Cup for the first time in 2015. Efforts have been made to promote and foster the growth of women’s soccer through grassroots programs and initiatives across the country.

#5 Soccer and the Olympics

Soccer has been a part of the Olympic Games since the early editions, with men’s soccer first introduced in 1900 and women’s soccer in 1996. The Costa Rican men’s national team has participated in four Olympic tournaments (1980, 1984, 2004, and 2016), while the women’s team is yet to qualify for the event.

The Olympic Games have helped raise the profile of soccer in Costa Rica and around the world. The platform offers exposure to talented players, especially from smaller countries like Costa Rica, giving them a chance to showcase their skills on the global stage and potentially opening up opportunities to play in major leagues.

#6 Famous Athletes and Achievements

  1. Paulo Wanchope: One of Costa Rica’s most accomplished forwards, Wanchope had a successful club career in various European leagues and was a key player for the national team during the 1990s and 2000s.
  2. Keylor Navas: Widely considered the best Costa Rican goalkeeper of all time, Navas has played for top European clubs like Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain and has been a standout performer for the national team in numerous international competitions.
  3. Bryan Ruiz: A talented playmaker, Ruiz has captained the national team in multiple World Cups and had successful stints with various European clubs, most notably with PSV Eindhoven and Sporting CP.
  4. Óscar Ramírez: A former national team player and standout midfielder, Ramírez made the transition to coaching and led Costa Rica to the 2018 FIFA World Cup as head coach.

#7 Where to watch Soccer

  • Teletica, Repretel, and ESPN: Broadcasters offering coverage of local Primera División matches, international tournaments, and major European league soccer events in Costa Rica.
  • Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica: Located in San José, this stadium is the largest in the country and frequently hosts national team matches and top domestic league games.
  • Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto (Alajuelense) and Estadio Ricardo Saprissa (Saprissa): Home stadiums of Costa Rica’s two most popular soccer clubs, offering an authentic and exciting live soccer experience for fans.

Max is a sports enthusiast who loves all kinds of ball and water sports. He founded & runs stand-up-paddling.org (#1 German Paddleboarding Blog), played competitive Badminton and Mini Golf (competed on national level in Germany), started learning ‘real’ Golf and dabbled in dozens of other sports & activities.

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