The word “aggregate” in soccer refers to the scoreline between the two teams after two games they have played against each other. Certain words in soccer are part of its usual terminology that many people find confusing. Aggregate is one such word.
When two teams play two games against each other, the scorelines from the two matches are combined to make an aggregate score. The team which scored more goals over two games is the aggregate winner, or as soccer fans would say, the team has won on aggregate.
In this article, we will go into more detail aggregate. We will look at what it means as a word, how it works in soccer and when and where it is necessary. That is because aggregate scores are not in use in all competitions. We will also learn about the away goals rule and how it is related to the aggregate score.
Here is an overview of what we will be looking at in this article:
- Definition of aggregate
- Where is the aggregate score used?
- Examples of aggregate
- Why is the aggregate used in soccer?
- The away goals rule
- Examples of the away goals rule
- Why are away goals so important in soccer
Let’s learn more about aggregate in soccer!
Definition of aggregate
Many people are unfamiliar with the word “aggregate”, as it’s not used in everyday communication all that often. That is why we will take a look at the meaning of the word by checking out a dictionary meaning.
- A whole formed by combining several (typically disparate) elements, or
- The total number of points scored by a player or team in a series of sporting contests.
These explanations are from the Oxford dictionary. However, they don’t tell us how aggregate works in soccer.
How does aggregate work?
Aggregate in soccer is when the scorelines from two soccer games between two of the same teams are combined. When the two scores are combined, the result is an aggregate scoreline. Or, as it’s also called, the score on aggregate.
However, not all soccer competitions need aggregate scores. It is reserved only for specific competitions where an aggregate scoreline is necessary to decide which teams will progress to the next round of the competition.
Examples of aggregate in soccer
Here are a few examples to help explain how aggregate works in soccer.
Team A plays against Team B in their first game and Team A wins 3-0.
Team B then plays against Team A at their stadium in the second game and Team B wins 2-0.
When we add those two scorelines, Team A defeats Team B 3-2 on aggregate.
Team A plays against Team B in their first game and the scoreline is 1-1.
Team B then hosts Team A at their stadium in the second game and Team B wins 2-1.
Therefore, Team B wins 3-2 on aggregate, as that is the aggregate scoreline when we add the two individual scores together.
Why is aggregate used in soccer?
The aggregate is used in soccer to determine the winner of a two-legged contest between the two teams when a single game between the two teams isn’t as fair.
The aggregate is used because both teams get to play one match at home. Also, both teams get to play one match in front of their fans. That is important for both psychological and physiological reasons.
A team has a psychological advantage when playing in front of their fans. Also, they have the physiological edge because they don’t have to travel as their opponents do.
Since soccer is a low-scoring sport, home advantage can make a big difference and with aggregate scorelines, both teams get to play one game at home and one game away from home. Deciding the final score this way is fairer towards both teams, rather than to decide the winner after only one game when one of the teams would be at a disadvantage.e
Where is aggregate used?
Aggregate is used in competitions with a knockout-stage system when the winner is decided over two legs or two matches between the same two teams. Such competitions are:
- International club competitions – UEFA Champions League qualifying rounds and knockout rounds.
- National team competitions – FIFA World Cup qualifiers
- Some domestic competitions – Coppa Italia
- Previously play-off matches – Formerly used in Major League Soccer conference semifinals and finals
However, not all two-legged ties can be decided on aggregate. That is why, in soccer, there is the away goals rule.
The away goals rule in soccer
So far, we have learned what aggregate is in soccer and why it exists. But it is not always enough to decide the winner on aggregate scorelines. The reason is that, after two games, both teams could have the same number of goals scored on aggregate.
The away goals rule in soccer exists to decide the winner of a two-legged match when both teams have scored the same number of goals on aggregate. The away goals rule gives the advantage to the goals teams have scored playing away from home field. So, when teams are tied on aggregate after two games, the team with more goals scored away from home is considered the winner on away goals.
There were two main reasons for introducing this rule:
- To prevent two-legged matches from needing the third game in neutral ground, and
- To encourage teams to attack when playing away from home.
The away goals rule was put forward in 1965 in UEFA’s Cup Winners’ Cup competition. UEFA accepted it, considering it harder to score a goal when playing away from home. Again, this was due to psychological and physiological reasons mentioned above. Therefore, deciding the winner on away goals was considered to be fair.
Examples of the away goals rule in soccer
To help explain how the away goals rule works in soccer, let’s look at some examples.
Team A plays Team B at home turf. Team A wins the game 1-0.
Team B then plays Team A at their home turf. This time, Team B wins 2-1.
The aggregate score is 2-2, but Team A has scored one goal away from home, while Team B didn’t score away from home. Therefore, Team A is the winner on away goals.
Team A plays Team B at home turf. Team B wins the game 2-3.
Team B then plays Team A at their home turf. This time, Team A wins 0-1.
The aggregate score is 3-3, but Team B has scored three away goals while Team A has scored one. Therefore, Team B is the winner on away goals.
Why are away goals so important in soccer?
The away goals rule is one of the unique rules in soccer, which has had a real impact on soccer history. This rule is valuable for soccer because it gives two-legged matches opportunities to change the final winner with a single goal. That is not possible in regular matches. For example:
Team A plays Team B and wins the first match at home 1-0.
Team B then plays Team A in the second match in which they lead 3-1. Team B has a 3-2 lead on aggregate, but one goal from Team A would mean Team A would win 3-3 on aggregate. That is due to more goals scored away from home. Such a situation adds to the drama and uncertainty for both teams. Without the away goals rule, the tie would instead go to extra-time.
However, starting from the 2021-22 season, UEFA decided to scrap the away goals rule from their competitions. They pointed out two main reasons for their decision:
- It dissuades home teams from attacking, especially in the first leg, because they fear conceding an away goal which has extra weight, and
- There has been a trend since the 1970s of continuous reduction in the gap between the number of home-away wins. That means the home-field advantage has been statistically declining over the last 50 years.
Other competitions still use the away goals rule. Those include FIFA World Cup qualifiers, Asian AFC Champions League and South American Copa Libertadores.
The aggregate score is used in soccer to give a fair result between two teams. The aggregate on its own is not always enough to produce the winner – teams can still score the same number of goals across two games. That is why the away goals rule was invented, to give more weight to goals scored away from home and to decide the winner without the need for a rematch.
And while some competitions have abolished the away goals rule, the aggregate score still has a valuable purpose in the world of soccer.