How Do Match Points Work in Soccer?

how do match points work in soccer

Soccer matches (association football) use a match point system to award a win or a tie for squads with points. Winning a soccer match gives a team three points, a tie (draw) gets one point, and a loss is zero points. The team with the most match points determines a winner in the EPL, and in the MLS, it gives a playoff advantage to that team.


So, why do soccer clubs receive one point for a tie during a regular-season game? What happens if there is a tie between two teams at the end of the year via match points? How does Major League Soccer reward teams with the most match points during their season if they have playoffs?


Here is the complete breakdown of match points and more in soccer leagues.


Match Points Breakdown During the Regular Season

match points breakdown during the regular season

The winning team receives three points during a regular-season game in the English Premier League, LaLiga, and MLS. Each team gets one point if there is a tie (draw) during a match. The losing team during a regular season receives zero points.


Every match is a total of 90 minutes via regulation time. No matter the score during a game, the winning team will always receive three points.


Why Do Matches End in Ties During the Regular Season?

why do matches end in ties during the regular season

Part of giving a tie between two squads is recognizing that they were evenly matched during that game. Since a regular-season game isn’t a knockout game meaning that there needs to be a winner, the football clubs settle on a tie with a single point. Regular-season games don’t need that, unlike a knockout game like the FIFA World Cup, where extra time occurs after 90 minutes to break the tiebreaker.


Outside of recognizing that both teams were equal with one match point, the tie (or draw) also keeps players healthy during the remainder of the season. By not playing an overtime period or going into a penalty kick/ penalty shootout during the regular season, you limit the number of chances unnecessary injuries can occur.


For example, in Major League Baseball, it is rare for a tie to occur. That means that players need to play in extra innings to decide a winner, leading to injuries since that is extra time in a game to determine a winner.


Do Soccer Clubs Receive any Bonus Points for a Shutout?

Do Soccer Clubs Receive any Bonus Points for a Shutout

Soccer clubs don’t receive any bonus for not allowing any goals against them during the game. However, the goalkeeper registers a clean sheet on their record, which can help them win the golden glove award at the end of the year. The golden glove award recognizes the best goalie during the season, and the amount of goals they give up against chances goes into consideration.


Do the Number of Goals Against Matter?

If teams have the same record via match points, then the goals difference (goals for vs. goals against) helps determine who the better squad is via the standings. That means that a team losing a soccer game against an opposing team should try and limit the number of goals they give up during a match. Even though it might not seem like a big deal since they are going to lose the game anyway, the benefit of limiting the number of goals might help you later on in the year in the standings.


Do the Number of Goals Matter in a Soccer Game?

Since winning a soccer game gives your team three total points, you might wonder if there is any incentive for teams to try and score goals when they are already winning with little time left on the clock. The answer is yes for two reasons. The first reason is that goals for (GF) can help break a tiebreaker during the regular season to determine which was the better team.


The second reason goals matter is during the aggregate scoring system of play. If both squads split the first two games, the away team will win the two-game tournament with an aggregate scoring system. Whoever has more soccer goals as the away team would win that tiebreaker split.


How Does Match Points Impact Promotion/Relegation?

How Does Match Points Impact Promotion Relegation

Promotion and relegation are part of the EPL system. While a bad team might not seem to have much to play for towards the end of a year, they don’t want to be in the bottom three squads via points because they will go down a level. 


If, for example, five teams have the same record via match points and the exact number of goals they scored during the season, then the league looks at goals difference to break that tie. Goals differences take goals for and subtract them from goals against to see who was the worst team via this category.


The goals difference will place the bottom three teams in the standings and go down one level next year. The top three teams in the bottom league then move up to the top league and then use match points or GD to figure out who those teams are.


How Does Aggregate Scoring Work?

How Does Aggregate Scoring Work

During the UEFA Champions League, they use an aggregate scoring (goal difference) method to determine a winner. The first game is at one team’s home, while the second game is at the opposing team’s venue. To determine who the winner is out of those two tournaments is whoever had the most number of goals between both games.


For example, Team A scores five goals in game one and only one in game two. Team B scores two goals in game one and two goals in game two. That means a split between both games where each side won the match, but Team A got six goals while Team B got four. With the aggregate scoring, Team A wins.


If there was a tie with the number of goals between teams, the away goals rule determines the winner. The soccer club that scored more goals playing as the away soccer team will win that aggregate match.


How Does MLS Use Match Points During the Regular Season?

How Does MLS Use Match Points During the Regular Season

MLS has the Supporters’ Shield, highlighting the best soccer team with match points in the league standings. Only one team can win the Supporters’ Shield each season. Whoever wins the Supporters’ Shield gets an automatic first-round bye in the MLS Cup Playoffs and has a home-field advantage during the rest of the playoff structure.


If, for example, a team in the Eastern Conference, NYC FC, won the Supporters Shield, then whoever had the best record in the Western Conference will also get a bye and home-field advantage in their conference. If both teams play against each other for the MLS Cup, the team that won the Supporters’ Shield will play host.


How Does the English Premier League use Match Points?

Unlike in MLS, where there is a playoff format to determine the best team, the English Premier League crowns the top-record squad during the regular season. The English Premier League uses the total match points for a team to crown the winner via the Premier League trophy to determine the best record.


In addition to crowning the best team, match points also help with relegation and promotion. The bottom three teams in the English Premier League move down one level, while the top three teams in the lower level move up to the big show.


Conclusion: How Do Soccer Match Points Work?

In summary, association football games give three points to the winning team after a game. The losing team does not receive any points, and a draw results in both teams getting one point. The match point system goes into a team’s standing to help determine the best squads during a season.


In MLS (Major League Soccer), the best record team doesn’t necessarily win the MLS Cup. Instead, the team with the best record gets a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the MLS Cup Playoffs.


The team with the highest match point record wins the Premier League Trophy for the English Premier League. Match points also help determine what teams need to move down a level via relegation. Since squads don’t want to leave the EPL, late-season games even as a bad team are still important to win. Squads don’t want to go down a level, so most games during the season matter via winning.


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