What does "cap" mean in this football (soccer) context?

GOAL! Liverpool 1-4 Man City (Foden 83)

Phil Foden caps a majestic second-half performance with a blistering goal!

This can't be related to the noun cap, because that's only for international matches, right?

  • 14
    Whoever is downvoting these questions is doing a disservice to ELLers. Sports jargon and usage is not always in dictionaries.
    – Lambie
    Mar 8, 2021 at 15:37
  • 8
    @Lambie although 'cap' has a specific meaning in soccer jargon (to be in the team chosen to represent one's country), the question is actually about one of its general meanings (replace 'goal' with 'aria' and it could just as easily be about opera singing). As such the question could be marked for improvement, but probably only if you already know the answer, so it's a bit unfair to downvote. Mar 9, 2021 at 13:19
  • I'm not the downvoter -- in fact, I see that right now this question has no downvotes, so I guess the downvoter was convinced by the above comments -- but FWIW, I don't think this is a great question. The word "cap" has many meanings, and many of those meanings can appear in a football context. The quotation is awkwardly and unclearly tacked on, when really it needs to be the central focus of the question; and it's not clear that the OP consulted a dictionary.
    – ruakh
    Mar 10, 2021 at 19:22
  • 3
    The title and body of this question are at odds: the title makes it sound like a sport terminology question, when in fact it is not at all related. Mar 10, 2021 at 23:29
  • @PeteKirkham Thanks but I am not the one who requires an explanation. And there are people who are downvoting these person's questions in a soccer context for no reason. I did not BOTHER to check specifically but am referring to the general fact of what has happened regarding these questions.
    – Lambie
    Apr 10, 2021 at 16:21

3 Answers 3


In this specific context, 'caps' (short for 'caps off') means "finishes", "completes" or in a closer simile: "tops off"

This is basically a metaphor for many different physical constructions - the final piece may be referred to as a "cap stone", which clearly always sits on the top, hence the alternative "tops off" - a thing that provides "the icing on the cake".

In this usage, 'cap' has nothing at all to do with the type of hat that is metaphorically (or sometimes physically) given to a player to signify team membership.

  • 1
    Capstone, "cap off", and cap (what you wear on your head) all derive from the Latin word for head. It's true that this usage of cap the verb has no connection to any specific hat, but there is a common ancestor to all these usages. Mar 9, 2021 at 16:21
  • Agree that here cap is a verb and nothing to do with a 'cap' awarded, but for those who are interested in the other usage, see Wikipedia: Cap (Sport) Mar 9, 2021 at 16:26
  • 1
    There is yet another meaning to "cap" in American professional sports. The league contracts with the players' unions have a "cap" (an upper limit) on the amount they can spend on players' salaries. When a contract with a player is finalized, the effect of that player's salary on the overall "cap" is termed a "cap hit" (i.e., how much does that one player's salary affect the overall team's salary cap). This is all done to help make smaller market teams be competitive with teams where the team's revenue potential is higher
    – Flydog57
    Mar 9, 2021 at 16:59
  • In an otherwise good explanation if the author had added a dictionary link, and properly cited the football/soccer sense there would have been no reason for posting new "answers".
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 12, 2021 at 6:48

Your question title and content differ. There is a soccer-specific usage of the word "cap" as well as a general usage. The usage in your question is the general variety.

In general usage, as @MikeBrocking said, "caps" (shortened form of "caps off") means to "finish" or "complete" something, usually in a notable (either good or bad) way. As in your example or in "Mark capped off his string of bad choices by deciding to rob a bar that, unbeknownst to him, was a favorite hangout for off-duty police."

In soccer usage, as @muru said, a player is credited with a "cap" when they appear in an international match for their national team.


Note that this is using cap as a verb - cap as a noun has a different meaning: appearances or matches played (hinted at by Mike Brockington). For example, also about Foden, from Wikipedia:

Foden has represented England at many youth levels, scoring 19 goals in 51 youth caps.

This means that Foden has appeared in 51 matches for various England youth teams (under-21s, under-19s, etc.).

  • 7
    This is really just an addendum to the other answer. By itself, this doesn't answer the question and is rather confusing as you only describe the "other" meaning.
    – MrWhite
    Mar 9, 2021 at 10:25
  • 6
    But it is useful for people who land here by following the title while looking for the noun.
    – RedSonja
    Mar 9, 2021 at 11:40
  • 2
    @RedSonja But still, at best it's a comment on the previous answer. Flagged as not an answer because of this.
    – Graham
    Mar 9, 2021 at 14:56
  • 3
    It quite certainly does answer the question in the title (which is quoted verbatim in the body). Either of those should be amended to include more of the quote in the question to really make this not an answer.
    – muru
    Mar 9, 2021 at 15:31
  • 1
    @MrWhite - That's debatable. If you read the question closely, and are familiar with the terminology, its pretty clear that most likely the OP was confused by the two completely different meanings of "cap", and didn't realize they were different. So most likely this meaning WAS being asked about too. In a perfect world, this info would have been edited into the other answer, but there are multiple reasons not to do that.
    – T.E.D.
    Mar 10, 2021 at 13:57

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .