How Long is a Soccer Game?

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How Long is a Soccer Game?

There are many interesting things about the length of a soccer game, depending on the profesional level. If you already know all this, then your beer is in hand, TV is on, and the game is about to start.

In this article I’ll try to answer all the main questions regarding the length of a soccer game, whether professional, college, high school or youth level.

How Long Is a Soccer Game? A typical soccer game lasts around 2 hours. Total time consists of 90 minutes of regular time (2x45min), plus the half-time break, plus the few minutes of stoppage time at the end of every half. If overtime is played, that’s additional 30 minutes (2x15min), with potential few more minutes for penalties.

As you can see there are many factors that can prolong the soccer game length.

Regular time is set for 90 minutes. When the game goes into overtime, the length of a soccer game is 120 minutes of regular time, plus all the breaks and stoppage time, plus the length of a penalty shootout.

This can make the game last two and a half hours, easily.

This is not the same for youth leagues or high school matches. Even college (NCAA) total time can differ, because they have shorter overtime periods.

Let’s see more in depth how long a soccer game really is.

How Long is a Professional Soccer Game?

Average professional soccer game (such as in MLS league or the World Cup match) is about 2 hours long.

The entire match time includes 90 minutes of regular time with 15-minute half-time break, stoppage (injury) time at the end of halves, plus overtime periods and penalty shootouts, if played.

This is the same for both for men and women, across the world.

This includes the FIFA World Cup games (women and men), championship games, league and cup games – any type of professional soccer game – they are all about 2 hours long total, on average.

Professional soccer game length can vary, depending on a type of game and competition.

With two 45-minute halves, a professional soccer game gets additional stoppage time of several minutes on average, and one 15-minute break between the halves. Unless it’s a special case, the stoppage time is usually 2-5 minutes long at the end of each half.

man playing soccer game with ball and feet in focus

When you see something like “+2” or “+3”, that’s the stoppage time.

Stoppage time is roughly proportional to the length of delays in the game.

Sometimes the stoppage time can be very long, due to injuries, substitutions, general time wasting or equipment failure that might have happened, so the ref may decide to add a lot of time at the end of every period.

If the overtime is played (knockout match), that’s additional 30 minutes of standard play. If there are no winners after that, the game enters into penalty shootout, which usually lasts only a few minutes.

Here is the breakdown of the soccer game length:

  1. 90 minutes of regular time (two 45-minute parts)
  2. up to 15 minutes of break in between two parts
  3. 2-5 minutes (on average) of stoppage/injury time at the end of every half
  4. If knockout: additional 30 minutes of overtime (two 15min parts)
  5. If no winners after overtime: 3-6 minutes of penalty shootout

This breakdown showed how the time is kept in soccer.

Without the overtime (extra time), most soccer games last just under 2 hours.

If the overtime is played fully, then the standard time expands to 120 minutes, plus all the breaks and injury time, plus the penalty shootout. Sometimes (very rarely) soccer games can last for a very long time, 2.5 to 3 hours, but these are special cases, and happen rarely.

Usually, if it’s an important game, stoppage times are longer.

Players know that if they waste too much time intentionally, take too long to exit for a substitution, or fake their injuries they may get a yellow card, and the ref will definitely add this time later on.

But, the tactic is still used anyway..

Factors that affect the length of a soccer game

Even though the standard length time is set, the length of a soccer game varies.

Length of a soccer games depends largely on these factors:

  • Stoppage (injury) time, also called allowance for time lost.
    This is the time added at the end of each of the half (end of 45 and 90 minutes). Referees decide the amount of time needed based on all injuries (why it’s called “injury time”) the distractions, time wasting and general time lost during the game, and then sets it at the end of 45th minute on each half.
  • Overtime (extra time). In any knockout match where the winner to enter the next phase must be decided by the end of the game, such as the knockout stage in FIFA World Cup, extra time is played. It consists of two 15-minute periods. If no winner is decided by the end of 30 minutes, game goes to penalty shootout.
  • Penalties last just for a few minutes, up to 10 or so, for very important matches. Each team gets 5 shots, and the team with the most points win. If it’s a tie, more shots are added.
  • If a penalty kick needs to be taken at the end of regular time, playtime will be extended a bit for the penalty to be taken, in any of the halves.

Many goals are scored during stoppage time. Even though it’s short, stoppage time can be crucial for the losing side to equalize or sometimes even win the match.

player taking corner kick in soccer

The length of stoppage time can change due to several factors.

According to IFAB, the Allowance for time lost is made by the referee in each half for all time lost in that half through:

  • substitutions
  • assessment and/or removal of injured players
  • wasting time
  • disciplinary sanctions
  • stoppages for drinks (which should not exceed one minute) or other medical reasons permitted by competition rules
  • delays relating to VAR ‘checks’ and ‘reviews’
  • any other cause, including any significant delay to a restart (e.g. goal celebrations)

This is the main reason why soccer games go over 90 minutes.

The fourth official indicates the minimum additional time decided by the referee at the end of the final minute of each half. The additional time may be increased by the referee, but cannot be reduced.

How Long is a Soccer Game on TV?

If you’re watching a live soccer game, it’s going to last around 2 hours. However, if there is overtime it could last 30-40 minutes longer.

If you’re watching an already finished (recorded) game, it’s usually shortened with breaks cut out, and lasts about 1 hour 45 minutes, on average, without overtime.

Do you already know all this? Then you’re probably watching (or waiting for) game right now, with your new clothes in the closet and just surfing the web to pass the time.

Keep reading.

Game time can potentially be even shorter if it’s a college game, as college soccer games have shorter overtimes and a golden goal rule.

There is a small difference between a professional soccer game, or a college soccer game. Even though colleges hire full-time professional coaches and staff, student athletes are amateur and not paid. They have shorter overtime periods, and apply the golden rule which can significantly shorten the potential overtime period.

However, generally college soccer games last the same.

How Long is a College Soccer Game?

College soccer match (NCAA) is 90 minutes long, with 15-minute half-time break, and two 10-minute overtime periods if the game remains a tie.

If it’s a tie after 90 minutes, overtime is always played.

Another difference from other leagues is the Golden Goal rule.

NCAA rules differ from the FIFA Laws of the Game, with these two rules being primary examples. Golden goal rule is such a rule, where the team who scores first, wins. This is also called sudden victory rule. Even though golden goal rule is used in college soccer in the US, it has been abolished in other parts of the world.

Here are some of the most notable NCAA 2018/2019 rules relating to length of a college soccer game:

  • Duration of the game is two periods of 45 minutes, with half-time interval (break) of 15 minutes, which may be extended in postseason competition or shortened by mutual consent of the coaches and officials
  • If the game is a tie after 90 minutes, two 10-minute periods of overtime are played. These overtime periods are “sudden-victory” type, meaning, the first team that scores – wins the game.
  • If the game is still tied after the overtime, it’s recorded as a tie (Unless playoff game, where penalty shootout will take place afterwards)
  • The interval between the 90-minute period and overtime is 5 minutes, and the interval between the two overtime periods is no longer than 2 minutes.
  • for live telecasts, a timeout may be used after the 23rd minute of each half (no longer than 2 minutes)

There are several other rules that may interest you, which you can check at this NCAA page. The rulebook covers everything from the field of play, the ball, substitutes, equipment, referee rules, scoring, offside, free kicks, corner kicks, goal kicks and everything in between.

NCAA is a National Collegiate Athletic Association, which regulates student athletes from 1,268 North American institutions and conferences.

How Long is a Youth Soccer Game?

Bow HS Varsity Boys playing soccer (high school)

The number of high school soccer players more than doubled in the last few decades, giving soccer the fastest growth rate among all major U.S. sports.

The length of a soccer game in youth leagues is somewhat different, because youth soccer games last shorter than professional ones, and they differ in some other rules.

Here are the rules from the United States Youth Soccer Association:

Age GroupGame LengthOvertime PeriodsNumber of Players
17U, 18U & 19UTwo 45-minute halvesTwo 15-minute halvesFull-sided
15U &16UTwo 40-minute halvesTwo 15-minute halvesFull-sided
13U &14UTwo 35-minute halvesTwo 10-minute halvesFull-sided
11U &12UTwo 30-minute halvesTwo 10-minute halves9v9; goalkeepers
9U & 10UTwo 25-minute halvesNONE7v7; goalkeepers
6U, 7U & 8U4–10-minute quartersNONE4v4; No goalkeepers

We can see from the table, the younger the player, the shorter the games.

Another difference in youth soccer games is that the number of players can be different, from the usual 11 players, and the number of substitutions is lower.

They might even have different ball sizes. The ones in in the link are quality balls for youth soccer with cushioned cover, machine stitched, with 2-ply butyl bladder for maximum air retention.

How Long is a High School Soccer Game?

According to NFHS 2019 Soccer Rules, high school soccer game in the United States is 80 minutes long, consisting of two 40-minute parts (or 4-20 min quarters) with a half-time break of 10 minutes, and up to 20 minutes of overtimes, depending on state.

There is a 5-minute period between the regular 80 minutes and overtime, and 2-minute period between the two overtimes.

During overtime periods, sudden victory rules may be permitted by state, during regular season. State high school athletic associations may call for longer overtimes, or sudden victory extra time.

If the game is still a tie after the regular 80 minutes, and there is no winner after the overtimes, then FIFA “Kicks from the Penalty Mark” rules apply to determine the winner.

To learn more about the soccer rules, including the comparison between NCAA, HS FED and IFAB/FIFA rules of 2019, check out this NFHS page.

NFHS – National Federation of State High School Associations is the governing body that sets the rules of the soccer games for high schools in the United States. It is based in Indianapolis, Indiana. NFHS writes the rules of the competition for most high school sports and activities in the United States.

How Long is a Middle School Soccer Game?

kids playing soccer game (youth league)

Conforming to the IFAB Laws of the Game, middle school soccer games typically last about 60-70 minutes, (two 30 to 35-minute halves), with a 10 minute break in between halves.

Overtime periods are two 10-minute long halves.

Some tournaments can have different times, especially if teams agree to set different times themselves, and some kids programs can have different times as well.

For example, 5th and 6th grades can have 30-minute long halves, and 7th and 8th grade can have 35-minute long halves. But, this can vary, as a well as breaks between halves.

Lower grades soccer game times are even shorter, as you can see from the table above.

Longest Soccer Game Ever

In the past, some football competitions allowed for successive extra times, before the use of penalty shootouts.

The actual longest soccer game was probably in 1922 during finals for the German Championship between Hamburger SV and 1.FC Nürnberg, which had to be broken off after 189 minutes at 2-2 because the coming dusk made play impossible.

If we are counting Guinness world records, then the longest soccer game ever was actually a charity marathon, which lasted for 108 hours, and played in 2016 in UK.

It was played by Hartbeat United, who split into two teams with 18 players on each team, rotating in when needed. The attempt raised funds for British Heart Foundation, and was also used to fund a memorial for the loss of three players, Matt Grimstone, Jacob Schilt and Matt Chaplain.

Game started at 6AM on a Thursday and lasted until Monday, and the final score was 1,009 against 872.

Do Soccer Players Know How Much Time is Left?

All players have a solid impression of how much time is left, for several reasons.

They can see both the time on stadiums up until it’s turned off, their coaches might also inform them, even referees will usually tell them, if a player asks them. Referees will try to keep the uncertainty and drama, and try to motivate players to continue being active, until the end of the game.

It is believed that it’s in the spirit of the game that they would not be aware of how much time is left, but they always know.

But, they will almost always tell this to soccer players.

Why Don’t They Stop the Clock in Soccer?

They don’t stop the clock because it would interfere with the flow of the game, and the soccer game would also last too long.

Soccer is a fluid game, with continual movements and constant flow throughout the entire game time.

Stopping the clock would mess with that flow. It adds some uncertainty and fun because you never really know how much time are you got left the end of a half period. All of this adds to the beauty of the game.

Second thing is, it could potentially take a long time. The average ball play time is around 60 minutes (sometimes below 50min), and if they stopped every time for even the simplest pauses, it could take too long to finish such a game.

For colleges in the US they do stop the clock.

They stop the clock during injuries, or any time a referee thinks the other team is wasting time. However, this also causes some issues, for example, if it’s about to cross the net, and doesn’t cross before the end of 45:00 or 90:00 then it doesn’t count. This would have been allowed outside US college soccer league.

What is the Most Stoppage Time Ever Added?

Longest stoppage time ever is 42 minutes on 2nd of September 2019, in a derby between Shabab Khanyounis and Ittihad Khanyounis in Gaza Strip Premier League (Palestine).

The match had to stop because the lighting on the field was not activated.

The maintenance personnel searched for the technician in charge of the lights, but couldn’t find him. Then they searched for the keys of the control room of but couldn’t find those either.

The game stopped and it took 42 minutes to turn the lights back on.

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