How Long is a Soccer Game?

The typical length for a professional soccer game is 90 minutes (also known as ‘full-time‘), and consists of two halves of 45 minutes, with the potential for additional time at the end of each half. Although this is the standard written into the Laws of the Game (Law 7), the length of matches in different leagues may vary. Soccer games can also extend beyond 90 minutes in some circumstances. In this post, we will explore the various factors that determine how long a soccer game lasts.

Why are soccer matches 90 minutes long?

In 1863, the very first Laws of the Games were drafted by the English Football Association. At this time, the length of a soccer game was not limited in the rules in any way. Early soccer games in this period were typically quite lengthy, often lasting until sundown. 

This changed in March of 1866 when a non-competitive match was scheduled for play between 3 pm and 4.30 pm. The game was played between a combination of clubs from Sheffield FC and the city of London. It is the earliest recorded soccer match that lasted for a set period. Since that match, the standard time that a soccer game lasts has become 90 minutes long.

In 1897, it became an official rule that a soccer game is 90 minutes long, and consists of two halves of 45 minutes. However, it took some time for this standard to be accepted and adopted worldwide. Once a set time had been established for soccer games, it soon became apparent that extra time rules are necessary for games where a definitive winner is required, such as cup finals and the World Cup. 

What is stoppage time in soccer?

In soccer, stoppage time refers to the time added to each two halves of the game. The referee counts additional minutes to account for the time lost during the first or second period. The referee has complete discretion to decide the number of minutes added to each half to make up for this time lost. 

The amount of stoppage time at the end of each half varies between games, and stoppage time is not guaranteed. Stoppage time accounts for lost time during the match, including substitutions, injuries, and time-wasting. Different referees might add time differently depending on an incident. For example, one referee might add 2 minutes for time lost due to assessing a player’s injury, while another might add 3 or 4 for the same event. 

The rule for stoppage time was incorporated into soccer because, in the past, players or teams would fake injuries, take a long time to make substitutions, or begin to stall if they had the lead. Allowing additional time at the end of each half of the game prevented teams from using these tactics to gain an advantage over the opposing team.

In matches where a definitive winner is required, such as in tournaments and cup finals like the World Cup, there is additional time added to games where scores are tied at the end.

What if scores are tied in important soccer matches?

Some soccer matches require a definitive winner, for instance in cup finals like the World Cup, or deciding matches in international tournaments. If there is a tie at the end of the 90 minutes plus stoppage time in these matches, additional time will be added. 

In these circumstances, extra time consists of two periods of 15 minutes. After standard time finishes, there is usually a 5-minute interval before the spare time begins. However, there is no interval during extra time. The entire 30 minutes are played, regardless of whether a team scores or the number of goals

If the scores are still tied at the end of the additional 30 minutes, the match goes to penalty kicks to decide the winning team. The penalty kicks are constituted by a best of five shoot-outs, with teams alternating between taking penalties. The penalty shoot-out runs until one team is not able to mathematically match their opponent’s score. 

Sometimes scores are still tied at the end of the standard, five kicks per team, penalty shoot-out round. In these circumstances, teams will continue with rounds of one kick per team until there is a winner. This is known in soccer as ‘sudden death.’ 

In the past, the ‘golden goal rule was used in places of the penalty shoot-out. The Golden Goal rule dictated that whichever team scored during the extra time was the winner. This rule was used to prevent unnecessarily long and tiring matches where the extra time was often dull and uneventful. It was meant to mitigate teams’ effect of being too tired and nervous to attack during extra time. 

The Golden Goal rule meant that teams were encouraged to attack rather than sit back and were rewarded for doing so. This created an exhilarating and tense experience for fans who were on the edge of their seats, desperately wanting their team to score first. 

Penalty shoot-outs are a controversial aspect of soccer. Many people believe the penalty shoot-out to be an unfair way of deciding the winning team. This is because there is an element of luck involved in scoring a penalty, and it doesn’t necessarily reflect the team’s skills and effort during the standard match time. Some people would prefer to see the Golden Goal rule brought back in place of penalty shoot-outs for these reasons, amongst others.   

What happens during half-time?

The two 45-minute halves of a soccer match are separated by half-time in the middle. This is where the teams are permitted to take a break for a set amount of time. Half time is signaled by the referee who blows their whistle when the first 45 minutes, plus any allotted stoppage time, has been completed. 

Half-time lasts for no longer than 15 minutes. During this time, teams can rest, rehydrate and come together to discuss tactics for the second half of the match. 

How long are women’s soccer games?

For women’s soccer games, the same rules apply regarding the duration of matches. Therefore, women’s matches last for the standard 90 minutes, divided into two 45-minute halves. Half-time and extra-time rules are also the same for women’s soccer matches. 

Can the length of a soccer game be changed?

It is a little-known fact that the length of a soccer game can be changed under the Game Laws. Under Law 7, which outlines the rules relating to the duration of soccer matches, a game can be reduced from the usual 90 minutes in situations where it has been agreed between the two teams and the referee. This must happen before the game starts and be in accordance with the competition rules. 

However, this is more theoretical than practically adopted and is a rarity to see. This is because it is very rarely in accordance with competition rules for a game’s duration to be reduced. It would, therefore, not be possible for the two teams and the referee to agree to it. 

How long is a game of soccer in youth soccer?

Youth soccer games are those played between teams of players aged under 16. These soccer games last for different durations than adult professional matches. Furthermore, the duration of a youth soccer match depends on the players’ age and the individual league and location. 

There are specific soccer match standards in the United States, depending on the players’ age group. For players under the age of 6, the AYSO recommendation is that soccer matches consist of two halves of 10 minutes, divided by a half time lasting between 5 and 10 minutes. 

In contrast, US Youth Soccer recommends soccer matches for players aged under six be played in quarters rather than halves. Four 6-minute quarters is the standard. No overtime is played for games where there is a tie situation. 

For youth matches involving players under 8 years of age, the AYSO standard is for two 20-minute halves. These are divided by a half-time period of 5 to 10 minutes. The US Youth Soccer standard duration for this age group is four 12-minute quarters. Total game time is 45-58 minutes, and no overtime is played for games where there is a tie at the end.

For youth matches involving players ages under 10, both US Youth Soccer and the AYSO standards are for matches to run over two 25-minute halves. The total game time is 55-60 minutes. Where players are over the age of 10 and under the age of 12, the standards for both organizations are for games to be played over two 30-minute halves. The total game time for this age group is 60-90 minutes. 

Where matches are played amongst under 14s, both US Youth Soccer and the AYSO standard is two haves lasting 35 minutes each. Referees determine the duration of half-time in these matches, but it typically lasts between 5 and 10 minutes. Should a tie occur at the end of the standard period, two 10-minute halves are played as a tie-breaker. The total game time is between 75-90 minutes for this age group. 

Both US Youth Soccer and the AYSO use two 45-minute halves for players under the age of 16. US Youth Soccer requires two periods of 15 minutes for extra time to be played where there is a tie at the end of standard time for this age group. The total match time is between 85-120 minutes for this age group. 

For players aged 17, 18, and 19, the standard adult match duration applies. Therefore, this age group plays soccer matches that last 90 minutes, divided into two 45-minute halves. Standard extra time rules also apply to this age group.