Everyone knows soccer is among the most popular sports in the world. You and I also know that anime is one of the most popular forms of media today. Say hello to a no-brainer combo!
Soccer animes have been around for many years, with some series debuting way back in the 1970s. They only come out every so often, but when they do, they're a treat to experience.
These anime series are made out of a love for "the beautiful game," showcasing what makes soccer so popular: the technical skills, the competitive challenges, the personal arcs, the thrills of success.
Here are my picks for the best anime series about soccer ever made—both classic and modern series—and why they stand out.
10. Soccer Fever
Originally aired 1994 to 1995
51 episodes (1 season)
Soccer Fever is one of the many classic soccer animes that took advantage of the FIFA mania that had stormed the world back in the early 1990s.
Made in anticipation of the 1994 FIFA World Cup held in Pasadena, California, Soccer Fever captured the hype felt by the whole world.
The plot of this anime series follows Brian Thompson, a journalist who's reporting on the happenings of the World Cup. He invites us—the audience—to join him as he recounts some of the most breathtaking moments in FIFA World Cup history.
Soccer Fever also celebrates the lives of so many great soccer players of the era, including Gerd Müller, Franz Beckenbauer, Eusébio, and, of course, the legendary Diego Maradona.
9. Inazuma Eleven GO
Originally aired 2011 to 2014
141 episodes (3 seasons)
The original Inazuma Eleven appears later in this list, but we're also including the spin-off sequel series Inazuma Eleven GO.
Taking place ten years after the near-cataclysmic events of Inazuma Eleven, the Football Frontier International has become a corrupt organization in Inazuma Eleven GO.
Instead of getting fair play, the Holy Emperor up in his spectator box decides the outcomes of every game. It's all done behind closed doors, of course, but it still sullies the beauty of soccer.
When Matsukaze Tenma joins a soccer team only to realize that soccer is being debased, he decides that something must be done. But will he be able to prevail over the powers that be?
8. Moero! Top Striker
Originally aired 1991 to 1992
49 episodes (1 season)
Moero! Top Striker (also known as Burn! Top Striker) is another soccer anime series from the 1990s that was born from the international hysteria surrounding the FIFA World Cup.
This anime series follows Hikaru Kikkawa, a young French boy who moved to Genoa when he was a child. In the process, he lost both of his parents in a plane crash, rendering him an orphan.
But all is not lost! Hikaru was adopted by soccer legend and striking phenom Albert Robson, who teaches him everything he knows and turns Hikaru into a soccer wizard like himself.
Fun, inspirational, and complete with some love triangles to spice things up, Moero! Top Striker is a great anime about soccer.
7. Giant Killing
Originally aired 2010
26 episodes (1 season)
Giant Killing is a soccer anime that focuses on one Tokyo soccer club called East Tokyo United. Due to poor recent performances, they're threatened with relegation.
The club managers decide that desperate measures are needed if their club is to survive, so they hire Takeshi Tatsumi, a former soccer star who had an illustrious career and a short stint as a coach.
Will Takeshi be able to bring the team up to a point where they can avoid relegation? Based on the award-winning manga, Giant Killing is one of the better modern soccer anime series to watch.
6. The Knight in the Area
Originally aired 2012
37 episodes (1 season)
A tear-jerking story about familial love, fraternal bonds, and the power of dreams, The Knight in the Area is one of my favorite soccer anime series from the last decade or so.
Centering on Kakeru Aizawa who's the younger brother of the soccer prodigy Suguru Aizawa, The Knight in the Area shows us what it means for the two brothers to play the sport of soccer.
At first, Kakeru quits playing soccer due to a health issue and gives up his future as a potential Hall of Famer. But when his brother is hit by a truck and killed, Kakeru receives his heart in a transplant—and aims to achieve his brother's dream of winning the World Cup.
The symbolism might be a tad on the nose, but it's still very affecting. We watch in nervous anticipation as Kakeru returns to play, and the result is a truly engaging watch from start to end.
5. Inazuma Eleven
Originally aired 2008 to 2011
127 episodes (3 seasons)
Inazuma Eleven, an anime series based on the Nintendo DS video game of the same name, showcases all of the struggles and obstacles that soccer players face in life.
Fear of relegation. The hindrances of injuries. The sudden alien invasion of Earth and the pervading threat of total annihilation should they fail to win their next soccer game? Yeah, that too!
The plot of Inazuma Eleven follows Mamoru Endou, the captain of the Raimon soccer team, as he tries to kick his collection of players back into shape. They were once the best team in the world. Can they replicate their past soccer greatness again?
But there's one snag in Mamoru's plan: a horde of aliens land on Earth and challenge them to a duel. If the humans can defeat them, they will leave Earth in peace. The stakes have never been higher!
4. Clean Freak! Aoyama-Kun
Originally aired 2017
12 episodes (1 season)
How about a soccer anime that also draws attention to some of the issues people may experience when suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder? That's Clean Freak! Aoyama-Kun.
Sure, it sounds like a weird concept, but Taku Sakamoto (the creator of the manga it's based on) knew what they were doing. Clean Freak! Aoyama-Kun is really, really good.
The story follows Aoyama, who's both a soccer genius and a sufferer of OCD. While the series does make light of the disorder at times, it mainly focuses on his team's goal of becoming the champions of their national high school's soccer competition.
3. Akakichi no Eleven
Originally aired 1970 to 1971
52 episodes (1 season)
We finally come to the oldest soccer anime series on our list. Why is it ranked so highly? Because of its sheer influence and impact.
We've already mentioned a few animes that captured the excitement surrounding FIFA World Cups, but they all owe a big debt to Akakichi no Eleven, which was the first anime to do it well.
Akakichi no Eleven centers on first-year student Shingo Tamai, who joins the school soccer team. His coach Tenpei Matsuki is determined to turn him—and his school friends—into players worthy of competing in the upper echelons of the sport.
Massively influential, Akakichi no Eleven could be said to be the anime series that inspired pretty much every other entry on this list.
Originally aired 2016
24 episodes (1 season)
When Tsukushi Tsukamoto is attacked by a group of bullies, he's saved by the mysterious Jin Kazama. His enigmatic savior doesn't wait long before inviting him to come and play soccer with him.
The Days anime series follows Tsukushi's attempts to learn and improve his soccer abilities, all while Jin plays masterfully and helps him along the way.
Days is an anime series that's about more than just soccer. It's about the importance of life goals, friendships, and making sure to support your close friends when they need it.
1. Captain Tsubasa
Originally aired 2018 to Present
52 episodes (1 season)
Captain Tsubasa was always going to be the best anime about soccer that tops our list. We're highlighting the 2018 remake because it's tighter with fewer fillers than the 1983 original, but the original Captain Tsubasa is still worth a watch if you can acquire it.
The story centers on the titular Tsubasa Oozora, a young Japanese boy who's as passionate about soccer as they come, and the series follows his journey towards soccer fame and glory.
Captain Tsubasa may not be perfect, but the original was massively popular with all kinds of spin-offs and adaptations. The remake is more accessible for modern viewers, so don't hesitate to check it out.
Without a doubt, Captain Tsubasa is the best anime series about soccer and a must-watch for any fan of the sport.