When France faced Croatia in the World Cup final this July, an estimated 1 billion people — over 13 percent of the world’s population — tuned into the event.

This viewership figure dwarfs that of the all-time most-watched American sporting event, Super Bowl XLIX, by a factor of 10 to one. It also had three times the viewership of the most-watched European club soccer event, the 2013 Champions League final.

The stage of international soccer is so large that many fans consider representing one’s country — both in World Cups and continental championships — to be the highest honor any soccer player can attain.

However, given the pressures and lucrative wages present in club soccer today, countries should no longer shun athletes who retire from their national teams at young ages.

Players are increasingly following this trend, retiring early from the international level while continuing their club careers. Last week, 32-year-old Chelsea defender Gary Cahill and 31-year-old Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy announced their retirements from the England national team.

Their decisions to leave a team with a storied history and an enthusiastic fan base in favor of more lucrative club opportunities has been criticized as disrespectful. It seems surprising that able-bodied athletes would reject the chance to play the sport they ostensibly love in front of a nation of faithful supporters.

Nevertheless, players almost always have respectable reasons for leaving a national team and should not be labeled as unpatriotic for doing so.

Club teams choose players because their positions and playing styles match the team’s needs, but players in the international game do not have this luxury. Oftentimes two talented players from the same position represent the same country simply by misfortune.

 In Vardy’s case, despite his capabilities as a striker, he was sure to continually lose out to standout 25-year-old compatriot Harry Kane for England’s starting spot.

Some players must sit on the bench of course, but those roles should be filled by young upstarts rather than seasoned veterans. Younger players gain more by learning, travelling and experiencing international tournaments for the first time, and they have the potential to raise their overall stocks as players by coming on as substitutes.

It makes little sense for well-established athletes like Vardy or Cahill to sit on the bench in place of a developing player.

Even star players may have valid reasons for international retirement. Certain players might not fit well with their national team’s manager or culture.

A notable example from this year was Mesut Ozil’s retirement from the German national team. Ozil claimed that the German football association pressured him to apologize for a photo taken with President Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey. In the international game, unhappy players cannot make a transfer request; they can only retire.

Above all, the international game causes physical exhaustion at the expense of players’ earning potential and personal lives. Players at the top clubs already face demanding schedules, generally playing 38 domestic league games, up to 13 Champions League games and various cups and friendlies.

As players get older, their bodies need all the recovery time they can get during the season. The taxing effect of travel, practice and games for continental tournaments can harm quality of play and even result in serious injury.

It is a risk that puts players’ club careers on the line, when they only have so many years to be able to earn professional wages. The average soccer career ends at 35, at which point a player usually needs to be financially stable for the rest of his life.

Older players are also more likely to have families with whom they choose to spend more time, a personal decision that all fans must respect. In 2016, Liverpool’s James Milner cited having very little free time to spend with his young family as his reason for retiring from England’s national team at age 30.

It is understandable why avid soccer fans and commentators want as many well-known players at the global level as possible. But considering the increasingly heavy demands of professional soccer, international retirement should be viewed as a valid personal decision rather than a rejection of one’s country.

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