How Long Is A Women’s Soccer Game?

A game of soccer is generally played over a set time, with that time split into two halves. Here, we explain how long a women’s soccer game is generally, and the reasons why the game is divided into two halves.

Soccer around the world, at amateur, semi-professional and pro levels, is governed by a set of rules laid down by the International Football Associations Board (IFAB).

This is the body that regulates the sport at the broadest levels, and part of its responsibility is to ensure that the rules under which the game is played are uniform and consistent.

Its Law 7 covers the duration of soccer matches, and states: “A match lasts for two equal halves of 45 minutes which may only be reduced if agreed between the referee and the two teams before the start of the match and is in accordance with competition rules.”

Women’s soccer game time in all cases also incorporates a half-time interval, in relation to which Law 7 states: “Players are entitled to an interval at half-time, not exceeding 15 minutes”.

womens soccer game

How Long Does The Half-Time Interval In A Women’s Soccer Game Last?

In reality, the length of the half-time interval in all senior soccer matches has changed considerably, but only in recent years. Back as recently as the 1970s, a half-time interval could last as little as five minutes.

It was only when soccer began to be broadcast widely live on T.V., especially prestigious events such as the English F.A. Cup, European Championships and World Cup that pressure grew for that interval to be lengthened, for purposes of allowing broadcasters to have more advertising slots to be able to sell, as this was their chief means of funding their bids for the rights to show live soccer games. So the laws were revised to what’s shown above. Today, the rule governing the length of a half-time period states: “The duration of the half-time interval … may be altered only with the referee’s permission.”

Under What Circumstances Can A Women’s Soccer Game Be Extended?

As with any other game of soccer, the referee – usually guided by information passed to them by the appointed fourth official observing the game from inside the ground – has the discretion to add on any amount of extra minutes necessary to make up for any interruptions to the play which have happened during the half in progress.

So it’s usually the case that, just as a half of a soccer game approaches its end, the referee will receive a signal indicating the amount of time which they should add, and this will alsol be broadcast over the stadium’s public address system.

This means that, while in theory, the answer to the question of how long is a women’s World Cup game, or any other professional-level soccer game, is 90 minutes – two halves of 45 minutes each – in practice, each half will be extended by any amount of time that the referee decides is appropriate to allow for any such interruptions.

Certain tournaments at higher levels of women’s soccer might also be subject to an allowance of a period of extra time. Working along the same principle as for other sports, for example overtime in ice hockey, and for senior-level men’s soccer, this is a fixed period of time – in the case of a game of soccer this is usually 30 minutes.

Again, at the higher levels of the game, the fourth official can ask the referee to add on further time lost to interruptions – in a number of whole minutes – and this will be communicated by the fourth official by means of an electronic board being held up on the edge of the pitch showing the number of minutes by which a half is to be extended.

Additionally, at half-time in extra time a short drinks break of no longer than one minute is permitted. 

The extensions to the time in a half of a soccer match can be applied when time is lost for any of the following reasons:

  • a period of time for which play is held up while a team brings on a substitute player
  • assessment and/or removal from the pitch of injured players
  • time deemed to have been wasted by players or coaching staff of either team
  • time taken to discipline players or team officials, i.e. the administration of yellow or red cards
  • medical stoppages permitted by competition rules e.g. ‘drinks’ breaks (which should not exceed one minute) and ‘cooling’ breaks of 90 seconds to three minutes, which can be added into a tournament as required by expected weather conditions
  • delays relating to ‘checks’ and ‘reviews’ carried out by the video assistant referee or VAR
  • any other cause, including any significant delay to a restart (e.g. resulting from goal celebrations)

The additional time indicated by the fourth official may be increased by the referee if play is held up further, but they should not play less than the indicated time to be added.

Finally, a referee cannot compensate for an error in their timekeeping during the first half of a soccer game by adjusting the length of the second half.

The only strict circumstances under which a period of added-on time or extra time can be extended is if a penalty kick is awarded right at the end of a half, so as to allow time for the kick to be taken.

How Long Is A Women’s World Cup Game?

The U.S. women’s soccer team is officially the best national side in the world, at the time this article was written having won the last two women’s World Cup tournaments, in 2015 and 2019.

All its competitive international matches are played over the same format of women’s soccer game time as all other competitive games in leagues around the world. So USWNT game time is a standard two halves of 45 minutes each, with a half-time break of 15 minutes, plus additions for interruptions in play, as outlined before.   

The format of individual tournaments may stipulate that a decisive result must be reached on the day, so a period of extra-time may be played in the event of the score being tied after the full 90 minutes, plus additional time added on to take account of interruptions. Extra-time consists of a further 30 minutes’ play, divided into two 15-minute halves, and there may be certain games in a competition where this is allowed – such as in the knockout stages of a competition, when a decisive result must be reached on the day.