How long do the Soccer World Cup matches last?

If you’re getting ready to make your viewing plans for the 2023 FIFA World Cup, then there’s one very important question you probably have on your mind: how long is a soccer match? Fortunately, timing is one of the easiest parts of the game to follow. Games stick to a specific time, without a ton of interruptions, and the standard time is the same for the World Cup as it is for “regular season” games.

How long does a soccer game last?

According to the rules of the game, established by the International Football Association Board (IFAB), a standard soccer match lasts 90 minutes of play. This is divided into two equal halves of 45 minutes each. In addition, there is a half-time break that cannot last more than 15 minutes.

If the game goes into overtime (more on that in a bit), another one-minute “drinking break” is allowed at “halftime” of the extra period. The schedule for men’s and women’s soccer is the same, and the rules remain the same for the Olympics, the World Cup, and “regular” games outside of these major tournaments.

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Are there overtime in soccer?

In “normal” soccer games, outside of tournaments like the Olympics or the World Cup, soccer doesn’t usually go into “extra time.” If a game is tied at the end of 90 minutes of regular play, it simply ends in a tie. Soccer, unlike many other sports, allows games to end in draws, and ranking systems have ways of reflecting that.

In tournaments where a winner must be determined (i.e. in the World Cup), soccer has extra time rules. In those cases, if a game is tied at the end of the regulation 90 minutes of play, the game goes into an extra period, or what other sports would call “overtime.” Under current FIFA rules, this extra period consists of two 15-minute periods added to the end of regulation time, with the aforementioned one-minute mini-half time for drinks. If the match is still tied at the end of these 30 minutes of extra play, the outcome of the match will be determined by a penalty shootout.

Can time be added to soccer games?

While the official game for a given match must be exactly 90 minutes, that does not mean that it is played outright with no stoppages, starts, or restarts. In accordance with IFAB rules, referees may make allowances for “lost” time across multiple events at each half. The list includes:

  • substitutions
  • evaluation and/or removal of injured players
  • wasting time
  • disciplinary sanctions
  • medical interruptions permitted by competition rules, e.g. “drink” breaks
    (not to exceed one minute) and “cool down” breaks (ninety seconds
    three minutes)
  • delays related to video assistant referee (VAR) checks and reviews
  • any other cause, including any significant delay in the restart (for example, goal celebrations)

These choices are largely left to the discretion of the arbitrators. The only other main “rule” is that a timing error in the first half cannot be made up for by adding extra time to the second half. Also worth noting: There are no timeouts for the team to come together and discuss strategy, as is common in other sports.

Does television affect the duration of soccer matches?

Technically no. Being televised doesn’t really affect the actual length of football matches. The rules state how long the game is and how long halftime is, so it’s not like the broadcasters can change those things. Most football games are broadcast directly, without commercial breaks, which is very different from how other sports, such as American football or baseball, are broadcast.

Image Source: Getty/Bill Barrett/USSF