How Long Is a Soccer Game

How Long Is a Soccer Game

Soccer, known as football in most parts of the world, is a sport that captivates millions with its simplicity, strategic depth, and intense athletic competition. One of the fundamental aspects of understanding soccer is grasping the structure and duration of a game. While the standard match time might seem straightforward, various elements can influence the actual length of a soccer game. This article delves into the intricacies of soccer game duration, exploring both the standard and extended timelines, the impact of stoppage time, and other factors that can extend the game.

Standard Duration of a Soccer Game

At its core, a professional soccer game is divided into two halves of 45 minutes each, making up a total of 90 minutes of regular playing time. This duration is standardized by the rules set forth by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the sport’s global governing body. Between the two halves, there is a halftime break, typically lasting 15 minutes, where players rest, rehydrate, and receive strategic instructions from their coaches.

Breakdown of the 90-Minute Regulation Time

  1. First Half (45 minutes): The game kicks off and the first half is played until the 45-minute mark. The referee may add a few minutes of stoppage time at the end of this half to compensate for any delays.
  2. Halftime Interval (15 minutes): Players and officials take a break, providing a brief respite before the second half begins.
  3. Second Half (45 minutes): The match resumes and continues for another 45 minutes. Similar to the first half, stoppage time is added to make up for any interruptions during the play.

Stoppage Time: Adding Minutes to the Clock

Stoppage time, also known as injury time, is added at the end of each half to compensate for time lost due to various interruptions. These interruptions can include injuries, substitutions, time-wasting tactics, and other delays. The amount of stoppage time is at the discretion of the referee, who keeps track of the time lost during the game.

  • Injuries: When a player is injured, the game may be paused for medical staff to attend to the player. The duration of this pause is added to the stoppage time.
  • Substitutions: Each team is allowed a set number of substitutions (usually three in most competitions), and the time taken for these changes is also added to the stoppage time.
  • Other Interruptions: Other delays, such as disciplinary actions (yellow/red cards), goal celebrations, and VAR (Video Assistant Referee) reviews, also contribute to stoppage time.

Typically, stoppage time ranges from 1 to 5 minutes per half, but it can be longer in matches with significant interruptions. For example, in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, several matches saw stoppage times exceeding 7 minutes due to extensive VAR reviews and injuries.

Extra Time: Deciding the Match in Knockout Stages

In knockout competitions, where a winner must be decided on the day, matches that are tied at the end of regular time proceed to extra time. Extra time consists of two 15-minute halves, making up an additional 30 minutes of play.

  1. First Half of Extra Time (15 minutes): After a short break following the end of regular time, the first half of extra time begins.
  2. Second Half of Extra Time (15 minutes): After a brief interval, the second half of extra time is played.

If the match is still tied after extra time, it usually proceeds to a penalty shootout to determine the winner. However, some competitions may end the match with a draw or use other tie-breaking methods depending on their rules.

Penalty Shootouts: The Final Decider

When a match remains tied after extra time in knockout stages, a penalty shootout is used to decide the winner. This dramatic conclusion involves each team taking five penalty kicks alternately. If the score remains tied after the initial five penalties, the shootout moves to sudden death, where each team takes one penalty each until one team scores and the other misses.

Penalty shootouts can vary in duration, but they generally take around 10 to 15 minutes to complete. The tension and excitement of penalty shootouts often make them one of the most thrilling aspects of soccer.

Other Factors Influencing Game Duration

Several additional factors can influence the overall duration of a soccer game, extending it beyond the standard 90 minutes and stoppage time:

  1. Weather Conditions: Extreme weather conditions, such as heavy rain, snow, or lightning, can cause temporary suspensions of play. These delays are added to the total match duration.
  2. Player Behavior: Instances of unsporting behavior, such as fighting or protests against refereeing decisions, can lead to extended delays and consequently longer stoppage time.
  3. Technical Issues: Problems with stadium lighting, VAR technology, or other technical issues can cause delays, extending the match duration.
  4. Tournaments and Friendly Matches: Some friendly matches and certain tournaments have variations in their rules, such as shorter halves or golden goal rules, which can affect the total duration of a game.

Youth and Amateur Soccer: Different Time Structures

While professional soccer games follow the 90-minute structure, youth and amateur matches often have shorter durations to accommodate the different physical capabilities of the players. For example:

  • Under-16 Matches: Typically consist of two 40-minute halves.
  • Under-12 Matches: Usually have two 30-minute halves.
  • Younger Age Groups: Matches can be even shorter, with two 20-minute halves or four 10-minute quarters.

These adjustments ensure that the duration of play is appropriate for the age and development level of the participants, promoting enjoyment and safety.


The duration of a soccer game, while seemingly straightforward at 90 minutes, encompasses a variety of factors that can extend the actual length of a match. From stoppage time and extra time to penalty shootouts and unexpected delays, the total time spent on a soccer field often exceeds the regulation time. This dynamic aspect of soccer timing adds to the excitement and unpredictability of the sport, captivating fans and players alike.

Whether you’re watching a local youth match or the final of the FIFA World Cup, understanding the nuances of soccer game duration enhances your appreciation of the beautiful game. Soccer’s blend of time-honored traditions and modern innovations ensures that each match is a unique experience, shaped by the flow of play, the decisions of referees, and the indomitable spirit of the players. The next time you watch a soccer game, you’ll have a deeper insight into the timing that orchestrates the drama unfolding on the pitch.

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