Cap-tied is an adjective, used primarily in association football, to describe a player who has represented a national football team in a competitive game and as a result is unable to represent another FIFA-affiliated national team. The term is a play on "cup-tied", which refers to a player who is not eligible to appear in a cup competition for a new team after having appeared for another team earlier in the season.
There are several ways that a player can become 'cap-tied' to a national team. A player is 'cap-tied' once he has played in an official competition for the senior national team.
A player can also be cap-tied once he has played in an official competition for a national team at any level providing that the player was not eligible to play for another national team at the time of his match appearance. For example, Adama Traoré, an Ivorian youth international, had shown interest in playing for the Socceroos after having moved to Australia; however, in October 2013, the FFA released a statement saying that he was ineligible for Australia because of his prior appearances.
In the event where a player is eligible to play for multiple nations, he is only 'cap-tied' to a nation after playing for its senior team in an official competition, or having played in an official competition at youth level and later submitting a request to change national association with FIFA.
Playing in friendly competitions at any level does not cap-tie a player. A player who competes for one nation in a friendly match is not considered cap-tied and may represent another nation in a competitive fixture, should the opportunity present itself. An example of this is Jermaine Jones, who had played three friendlies for Germany in 2008 but started competing for the US in 2010.
In some instances, players have sought refuge in another country having represented their national team in an official competition. Players such as Maykel Galindo, Lester Moré and Osvaldo Alonso have represented the Cuba national football team and since defected to the United States but are now unable to represent another nation.