How Long is a Soccer Game?

how long is a soccer game

Last updated on November 13th, 2023 at 07:33 pm

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 two and half to three.


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 is extra time and the penalty shootout in soccer games?


Here is the complete guide to how long a soccer game is.


Greg Kristan: Video Explaining How Long a Soccer Game is For Beginners

When I began watching soccer in 2022, I was incredibly confused with how the clock worked. I didn’t understand why the clock would keep running when the ball would go out of bounds. On top of that, I was very confused as to how stoppage time, extra time, and penalty shootouts would work in a game.


Since I know that all of this is confusing, I recorded a video of myself explaining how soccer works. 




Why it Takes 2 Hours to Watch a Whole Soccer Game?

To complete a professional soccer game, you can expect it to take around 2 hours. 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, a minor foul, a major foul, a goal, kick, players celebrating a goal, and more. These disruptions get added to the game clock, so there is always “90 minutes” of game action. Therefore, after 45 minutes of play, the referee will hold up a sign that says “3”, which signals that they is roughly 3 more minutes of extra time to complete the half.


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?

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. One thing to note is that the additional time added to stoppage time is not exact. For instance, three minutes might go by and the referee might continue play to let the team with the ball one more attempt at a play before blowing the whistle.


How Long are Extra Time Periods in Soccer?

how do extra periods work in soccer

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.


For example. during the MLS Cup in 2022 between LAFC and Philadelphia Union, the game went into extra time since the score was in a tie after 90 minutes of play. Once LAFC tied the game at the end of extra time, the game went into a penalty kick shootout.


How Long is the Penalty Shootout in Soccer?

How Long is the Penalty Shootout in Soccer

A soccer penalty shootout occurs if the game is still in a tie after extra time. The format of a penalty shootout is best out of five, so whatever team has more goals after five will win the game. Games can end sooner if one team scores three goals while the other team missed their first three shots since mathematically the other team can’t come back via the best of five.


However, if there is still a tie after the first round of five penalty shots, then the format resumes until there is a winner. Also, a goalies can join the penalty kick since everyone on the pitch needs to participate in this shootout.


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. Also, it is worth noting that a friendly match can have more substitutions 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.


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 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 2.5 to 3 hours to complete.


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