A soccer game is 90 minutes of “official action” that breaks into two 45-minute halves. However, the actual time it takes to complete a game with official action time, halftime, and stoppage time makes the game closer to two hours. Factor in knockout matches, like the MLS Cup or FIFA World Cup Final, that go into extra time and penalty kicks, and the games can get closer to three hours. Soccer games also have the clock run up instead of down, which is different from NHL, NBA, and NFL games. In fact, during a game, the clock continues to run even when there is a delay in action, which is different from other sports.
So how long is a soccer game in game minutes? Why is there 90 minutes of official clock time in soccer? Why do games go past the 90 minutes via stoppage time? How long do games tend to last and more? Finally, why does the clock run up instead of down?
Here is the complete guide to how long a soccer game is.
How Long is a Soccer Game in Game Minutes?
A professional men’s and women’s soccer match is 90 minutes of gameplay broken down between two 45-minute halves. You have a halftime break between the two periods that lasts fifteen minutes.
Why is it 90 Minutes of Game Time?
Early in soccer history, teams would play a game until the sun went down. There wasn’t any official time clock, but that changed in 1886. In 1886, a game against London and Sheffield agreed on the 90-minute game time, which became the norm.
In 1897, the 90-minute match became official, and the IFAB made that their rule as well. To this day, professional soccer games are still 90-minutes of action.
How Long Does It Take to Watch an Association Football (Soccer) Match?
To complete a professional soccer game, you can expect it to take around 2 hours. Major League Baseball games took over 3 hours on average to complete in 2021 to put that in perspective. While the official game clock is 90 minutes of action plus the 15 minute-halftime interval, the entire match takes closer to 2 hours to complete due to stoppages.
One reason for the game taking longer than 90 minutes is the stoppage of action. An example of stoppage in action includes an injury, the ball going out of bounds, and the players celebrating a goal. These disruptions get added to the game clock, so there is always “90 minutes” of game action.
Another reason why the amount of time to complete the game is longer than 90 minutes is if there is overtime and or a penalty shootout. Overtime has two 15-minute halves. After that, if there is no winner, the game goes into a penalty kick showdown. However, it is worth noting that extra time (overtime) and penalty shootouts only occur during knockout games. Therefore, a traditional English Premier League game against Arsenal and Chelsea during the regular season will end after the 90 minutes of “official action” expires, which could result in a draw.
Why Do Soccer Games Go Over 90 Minutes of Game Clock?
Stoppage time (additional time / added time) occurs at the end of each half during games. Since the middle point of a soccer game is at the 45-minute mark, you might see a few minutes added to the first half to complete the 45 minutes of official action.
For example, a goal celebration, fouls, or an injury that delays activity might add four additional minutes of stoppage time after the 45-minute mark to complete the first half. While technically, the first half was 49 minutes of clock time with the four minutes of stoppage time, it really is 45 minutes of game action since the delay took place, and there needed to be four more minutes.
The same concept occurs when stoppage time is added to the play’s second half.
How Do Extra Periods Work?
While some games can end in a tie, matches like the World Cup don’t. If the game is tied after the 90-minutes of game time, the game goes into overtime via two 15-minute periods. Even if one team scores during the 30 minutes of overtime, the game is not over until the 30 minutes of game time is complete. If there is no winner after overtime, the game goes into a best of five shootouts against the opponent’s goalkeeper.
Why Does the Soccer Clock Count Up Instead of Down?
During a soccer game, the clock keeps counting up when the game begins to minimize game disruption. That means penalties, flops, throwing the ball back onto the field if it goes out of bounds, and more won’t stop the game clock. Since the clock does not stop, except if the game needs to be abandoned, it wouldn’t make sense if it counted down and went to zero or a negative number.
Another reason the clock goes up instead of down is to keep the referee in control of the game. The referee can measure any time-wasting moments and have that added to the end of the half to play. Giving the referee this control allows them to focus on the game instead of stopping their watch and restarting the game clock.
Are There any Timeouts During a Soccer Match?
There are no timeouts during a soccer match, but teams can make substitutions. There can only be three substitutions during a professional soccer match. However, with the Covid-19 situation, teams can have up to five substitutions during a game.
Also, it is worth noting that a friendly match can have more subsititions than a regular game.
How Long is a College Soccer Game?
College soccer games are 90 minutes of regulation time with two 45-minute halves. The halftime interval between both periods is a 15-minute break.
However, one interesting thing about NCAA college soccer matches is the Golden Goal Rule. The Golden Goal Rule states that the game will end in a tie at the end of the game if there is no score. If there is a tie at the end of the game and both teams score, they go into overtime.
How Long is a High School Soccer Game?
High School Soccer Games consist of two 40-minute periods. In addition to the 80 minutes of the official game clock, high school soccer games have a ten-minute intermission between both halves. However, the intermission period can be shorter if both teams agree to that before the start of the game.
How Long are Youth Soccer Games?
Youth soccer leagues will vary in time depending on the age group of the soccer players. Here is a link to the USA-Soccer.org list that goes into more specifics.
- Under 8 has four 12-minute quarters
- Under 10 has two 25-minute halves
- Players under 12 has two 30-minute halves and two 10-minute halves in overtime
- Under 14 has two 35-minute halves and two 10-minute halves in overtime
- Players under 16 has two 40-minute halves and two 15-minute halves in overtime
- Under 19 has two 45-minute halves and two 15-minute halves in overtime.
Conclusion: How Long is a Soccer Game?
In summary, a professional soccer game (association football match) is 90 minutes of action. Since the Laws of the Game rule back in 1886 had the 90-minute mark, soccer games continue that same tradition. Soccer games tend to take about two hours or so to complete.
By comparison, a soccer game is one of the fastest games to complete when you compare it to Major League Baseball, which takes over 3 hours to complete.