How Long are Soccer Games? A quick Review

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Welcome, Soccer Insiders! 

Have you ever asked, “How long are soccer games?” You’re not alone in this. As your child becomes more involved in youth soccer, you must familiarize yourself with the game’s basic rules and structure – including its duration. Just like your child’s age and skill level can affect the playing time, the length of professional soccer games also varies. 

Contrary to what many believe, soccer games have a predefined timing structure. So, whether you’re preparing for your child’s upcoming tournament or planning to watch a Major League Soccer (MLS) game, understanding the concept of game duration can enhance your experience and, at the same time, ease some of your scheduling uncertainties. 

In this friendly guide, we’ll unlock the mysteries surrounding the timing of this beautiful game. Let’s kick off!

Why Doesn’t The Clock Stop During Soccer?

Unlike many other sports, the clock in soccer is continuous. This means that the clock continues to run even when the ball goes out of bounds, a player is injured, or when substitutions are made. The rationale is to maintain the game’s flow and limit unnecessary stoppages.

This means the lost time is addressed. The lost time due to various stoppages is often compensated for and added at the end of each half, known as stoppage time or injury time. The exact duration is at the referee’s discretion.

Continuous play might seem strange, especially if you’re accustomed to sports like American football or basketball, where the clock stops on various occasions. But this is an intrinsic part of the game’s charm in soccer.

How Long is a MLS Soccer Game?

A full-length Major League Soccer (MLS) game typically lasts about 90 minutes, broken into two 45-minute halves separated by a 15-minute halftime. However, the total length of the match can extend up to about 2 hours when you factor in stoppage time, halftime, stoppages for substitutions, injuries, and any potential additional time or penalty shootout.

How Long is a Youth Soccer Game?

Youth soccer games generally run for a shorter duration. For youth leagues, the younger the players, the quicker the matches tend to be. The exact time varies, but with very young players (under 5s), games can last only 20 minutes, divided into four 5-minute quarters. 

On the other hand, for older kids (around U12-U16), games can range from 60 to 80 minutes long, divided into either halves or quarters. This time frame is designed to match the player’s age and endurance levels.

Soccer Game Length (by Age Group)

The game length changes as players grow older:

  • U5s have 4 quarters of 5 minutes each for a 20-minute match
  • U6-U8: Four 10-minute quarters, hence a 40-minute match
  • U10: Two 25-minute halves, in total a 50-minute match
  • U12: Two 30-minute halves, so a 60-minute match
  • U14: Two 35-minute halves, hence a 70-minute match
  • U16: Two 40-minute halves, making an 80-minute match

This is a general guideline. The actual game length can vary depending on the league and level of play.

When Does The Clock Stop In Soccer?

The clock in soccer officially never stops, but there might be ‘breaks’ when counting the game’s progression. This ‘break’ is never seen on the clock, but it’s in the form of ‘stoppage’ or ‘injury time,’ added at the end of each half at the referee’s discretion.

Are There Timeouts in Soccer?

Contrary to sports like basketball or football, soccer has no official ‘time out’ or ‘breaks.’ The game only stops for halftime, injuries deemed serious by the referee.

Key Takeaways

  • Soccer games do not stop the clock for out-of-bounds, substitutions, or minor injuries. Hence, they have added ‘stoppage time.’
  • MLS soccer games last about 90 minutes of playtime, but considering stoppages, halftime, and potential extra time, it can go up to 2 hours.
  • Youth soccer games are shorter, ranging from 20 minutes for the youngest players to 80 minutes for older youth players.
  • The clock in soccer only ‘breaks’ for adding stoppage time, not during the action.
  • Soccer games don’t have official ‘timeouts’ like other sports.

I hope you found this guide helpful in understanding the durations of different soccer games!

New to Youth Soccer? Our Basic Rules of Soccer article is a great place to start!!!

Basic Rules of Soccer: A Parent’s Guide to Supporting Your Child on the Sideline

Frequently Asked Questions: How Long are Soccer Games

How is Stoppage Time Determined in Soccer?

Stoppage time, also known as injury time, is determined by the referee and is added to compensate for time lost due to stoppages during the regular game duration. These interruptions could be injuries, time-wasting, or substitution. You won’t have to worry about extra time for a while though as it generally isn’t used until your kiddo gets into more competitive leagues.

Can a Soccer Game End in a Tie?

Yes, depending on the nature of the competition, a soccer game can end in a tie, especially during league matches. However, additional methods like extra time or penalty shootouts are used to determine a winner in knockout rounds or finals.

What Happens When a Soccer Game Goes into Extra Time?

Extra time in soccer is additional game time beyond the regular 90 minutes, separated into two halves. It is used in certain competitions to determine a winner when a game ends in a tie. The match usually proceeds to a penalty shootout if the score remains tied after extra time. 

Why are Youth Soccer Games Shorter?

Youth soccer games are shorter because children and younger players generally have lower physical stamina than adults. Shorter matches adapt the game to their development and ensure they can still participate in a safe and fun environment.

Do All Youth Soccer Leagues Follow the Same Game Length Standards?

Generally, soccer game length guidelines do exist. They are widely followed, but the exact game duration varies slightly between youth leagues and tournaments. It’s always best to check with your specific league for precise information.