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How Long Does A Soccer Game Last? MLS, College, And Tournaments Explained

There are many misconceptions about soccer. One of the most common questions is how long does a soccer game last.

A typical game of soccer will last for 90 minutes, broken up into two 45-minute halves. As a soccer player that has played since the age of around 6, though, this is not always the case.

I’ve played in all sorts of matches at different ages, so this question is not as easy to answer as it seems. Here’s why.

Overtime

Soccer is different from other teams sports such as basketball or American football. In these games, once the clock hits zero there is no more action.

In soccer, time adds on at the end of each half to allow for extra time. You will almost always see the clock run past the 45 or 90 minutes at the end of each half.

That’s why most soccer games will run past 90 minutes. Played will often stop because of a foul, an injury, or a substitution.

You will see a soccer clock counting up, as opposed to other sports that will count down. Because there is no way of telling how much overtime there will be at the end of each half, it wouldn’t look right to count down, as the counter would sit at 0:00 with the match still ongoing.

Why Does A Soccer Game Overrun?

There are many reasons why a soccer game will overrun, some more common than others.

Injury

The most common reason a soccer match will overrun is down to an injury. This allows time for medical staff to come onto the pitch and tend to the injured player.

Depending on how serious the injury is, the player may need further treatment. They might even need to go off by stretcher if it’s serious.

This could add at least 5 or 7 minutes of added time to the half.

Fouls

Another common reason a match stops is due to a foul by another player. This will either result in a free kick or a penalty to the opposing team.

A dead ball situation can take time to set up, especially free kicks that are close to the opposition’s goal. As the attacking team has a good chance of scoring.

Pitch Invaders, Time Wasters, And Blackouts

Although less common, a pitch invader can force the referee to stop a game and allow pitch staff to remove them. This is unlikely to happen in recreational youth games (unless a Mom or Dad is waiting to tell the ref why they made a bad call!)

Time-wasting is much more common, which is when a team is purposely trying to run down the clock if they are winning and want to hold on to the score.

Power outages have also stopped a game when the floodlights lose all power and it’s a night game. The timer stops if play is unable to resume within a reasonable amount of time.

Additional time might also allow for items to be removed from the pitch or to wade off wild animals. It’s quite common for wildlife to make their way onto the pitch.

What other reasons are there for a soccer game to overrun?

Extra Time

Extra time occurs when a soccer match is not decided in regular time and the match cannot end in a draw. This is common in cup competitions such as the World Cup.

As there can be no draw, two extra halves of soccer happen and each team has the opportunity to win the match.

These are not 45 minutes in length and instead only 15 minutes, with a total of 30 minutes of extra time.

Penalties

If a game is not decided by extra time, then the match will go to penalties.

Each team will take turns shooting against the opposing goalkeeper from the penalty spot. Whichever team scores the most goal wins.

If after five penalties both teams are still equal, it will go to sudden death. If one player fails to score their penalty, and the opposing player scores, the team who scored will win.

Whilst this is not timed, spectators need to consider this extra allowed time, as a penalty shootout won’t stop until there is a winner.

Game Length By Age

The above covers soccer games over the age of 12 years old, including amateur and professional soccer matches. We wouldn’t expect children to play this long and so they have different game lengths depending on their age:

  • Children under the age of 8 will play for up to 48 minutes
  • Children under the age of 10 can play for up to 50 minutes
  • Children under the age of 12 will play for up to 60 minutes

High school level and beyond will revert to the classic 45-minute halves.

What Other Soccer Rules Are Misunderstood?

Whilst most soccer games are 90 minutes in length, many exceptions change how long a soccer match truly lasts. If you are going to watch an MLS soccer match, or your kid’s afterschool game, use the above information to help you understand how long you’ll be spectating.

Check out our other articles, including this guide on how many soccer players are on the field at one time. Hint: it’s not always 22 players!

FAQ

Are There Timeouts In Soccer?

Unlike typical American sports such as basketball and American football, there are timeouts in soccer. Yet, savvy coaches and managers will take breaks in the match to reorganize their team and distribute tactics.

You will often find them doing this when a player is down or injured or when a player is about to be substituted. As the MLS allows up to 5 substitutions over 3 opportunities, this is a time for a coach to speak to some of his or her players.

What Was The Longest Game Ever Recorded?

The longest football match was a match between Stockport County and Doncaster Rovers in 1946 in the UK. It lasted a whopping 3 hours and 23 minutes.

And the reason it lasted so long is down to an old soccer rule that has settled many recess matches in school for a generation: next goal wins. This means there is no winner until one team has scored.

The match carried on until the sun went down, meaning the match needed to be replayed, where Doncaster eventually went on to win the match.

A sports bag lying on grass with items in it
A soccer player holding a large sweeper
Two soccer players battling for the ball
The letters FC on a grass field
a soccer player striking a ball
A person being applied a bandage by another person with sterile gloves