How Long Is a Soccer Game? What Is Its Purpose?

how many minutes in a soccer game

How long does a soccer game last? Most people will tell you that it lasts for 90 minutes. While this is correct on paper, there are several factors that determine the actual length of a soccer game. Below, we delve into the timelines of these games for different categories of players.

Soccer Game Timelines

Let’s start with the age of the players. While the adult game lasts well over the 90-minute mark, an exception exists with the younger players, typically those below the age of 16. Soccer is a rigorous game, with players running up to 5 km throughout the duration of the match. This might be too much of a challenge to bear for younger players.

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Remember, physical activity begins even before the players get on the pitch. The team must take time to warm up before the main action kicks off. This, however, should not add more fatigue to the players. If anything, it achieves the complete opposite. Let’s start by looking briefly at the importance of this pre-match activity.

Though it does not count as part of the game, warming up is a crucial determinant of your performance in soccer. The 20-minute session programs the mind and body of the player to focus on the game. You may have noticed that many professional players put on earphones during warm-up. Some may be just shutting out the noise so they can concentrate on the moment. Others could be listening to motivational content for that mental boost to see them through the game.

Warm-up is also important for blood flow. When you’re sitting or lying down, your blood flow slows down significantly. Once you start moving, the blood vessels gradually open up, and more blood courses through your body. The muscles are especially critical, as they power all that vigorous activity required for the game. Warming up increases blood flow through your muscles, supplying them with adequate oxygen for optimal performance.

Finally, warming up helps you minimize the possibility of an injury. While at rest, your muscles are pretty tight. When you stretch, your muscles loosen and are less likely to strain or pull during the game. Warm-up exercises can include jogging, side stepping, squats, arm swings, lunges, stretching, and so on.

Now that you know why players have to get moving even before the game kicks off, let’s get to the heart of the discussion. How long are soccer games?

Soccer Timelines for Young Players

Neighbourhood soccer games ushered most of us into the world of sports. Depending on where you live, there’s always an ongoing game somewhere around the hood. Players popped in and out according to availability. These games were a great incentive to pass the time, keep fit, and build a competitive spirit.

Beyond the neighbourhood pitch, youth soccer games are guided by specific regulations. The rules may differ from one country to another; in the U.S, the timelines according to age are as follows:

  • Under 19: 90-minute game, 30-minute overtime
  • Under 16: 80-minute game, 30-minute overtime
  • Under 14: 70-minute game, 20-minute overtime
  • Under 12: 60-minute game, 20-minute overtime
  • Under 10: 50-minute game
  • Under 8: 48-minute game divided into 12-minute quarters
  • Under 6: 24-minute game divided into 6-minute quarters

(This is just a guide – the coach can pick the best time limit according to the capability of the players.)

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So, how long is the soccer game in general terms? As you can see, there’s no definite answer to this question, at least not with the young players. In the professional category, however, things are pretty consistent, as we lay out a bit later. You’re probably wondering why these timelines are such. Why assign such rules to players as young as five? Why not let the little ones play as they wish?

Well, soccer, just like any other, is a game of rules. Among the many values that are instilled by taking place in sports is the ability to follow the rules. The fixed time is one of the most important rules. Once that whistle blows, you can no longer touch that ball. You have to practice restraint no matter how charged up you are. Kids learn from a young age to obey the whistle.

There’s also a level of urgency. You know there’s only a limited time to work towards that goal, and every moment counts. The timelines also allow players to give their best without wearing themselves out or getting injuries due to fatigue.

The Professional Soccer Game

If you’re a soccer spectator and a fan of the major teams, this is the part of the article that will interest you the most. You’re likely researching this not as a player but as a lover of this beautiful game interested in learning the rules. I’m glad you’re taking this step; watching a game is a lot more enjoyable when you understand what is going on.

How long is a soccer game? In the case of professionals, we can state simply that a standard game lasts 90 minutes. In between is a 15-minute break, which means that the entire duration is 105 minutes. Does the whistle blow precisely on the 105th minute? No. The referee adds a few minutes to cater for disruptive moments during the match. The game may have been stopped momentarily due to:

  • Injuries
  • Substitutions
  • Discipline issues (yellow/red cards)
  • Goal celebrations

The disruptions get wild at times, like in the World Cup match where a naked fan leapt onto the pitch and gave the security guys a proper run. The spectators cheered wildly, clearly thrilled by the unexpected break. Never a dull moment in this game, is there?


Half-time is the 15-minute break between the first and second halves. The referee might not blow the whistle on the dot in the 45th minute. In a soccer game, we must take into account any moment spent with the ball, not in play. A few minutes will be added to compensate for stoppage time, as earlier explained.

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Half-time gives the players a chance to rest. As strong and agile as professional players are, running for kilometres around the pitch, sometimes in the scorching sun, is no mean feat. Have you thought about the breadth of the soccer pitch and how much running takes place? How long is a soccer field? FIFA-approved soccer pitches are about 100 meters long and 60 meters wide. Quite a massive distance to cover there.

The 15-minute period, brief as it seems, allows players to catch their breath. In addition, the players can:

  • Drink water or energy drinks
  • Consult with the coach
  • Make tactical changes
  • Visit the washroom
  • Get medical attention for minor issues like bruises

The spectators also get a chance to stretch and refill their snacks. They may also enjoy some entertainment here. It’s not like much is necessary, though. For most soccer fans, the game itself is entertaining enough.

Extra Time

Some games will proceed to extra time while others will not. Is there a need for a clear winner in the game? If you’re talking of the group stages of a tournament, the game stops in normal time (90 minutes). Each team gains a certain number of points depending on the performance. As the tournament progresses, you get to the elimination stage. Here, the game needs to produce a clear winner.

This is where extra time comes in. If the regular 90 minutes end in a tie or a draw, a 30-minute overtime (in 15-minute intervals) is added, with a one-minute break in between. In this case, players will play an active game for a combined 120 minutes.

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We mentioned earlier the things that players do during half-time. With that in mind, is the one minute offered as half-time in the extra time any good? It may not be much, but it’s enough for a gulp of water. At this stage, players will be on an adrenaline-fueled quest to break the tie. They really don’t need much of a break.


In the case of a tie after the regular and extra time, a penalty shootout must occur to determine the winner. The suspense is palpable across the stadium at this stage of the game. Each side gets five attempts, taken in alternating order. In the unlikely but possible scenario that a tie still exists, the penalties will continue until one team scores more goals.

A Question Answered

How many minutes are in a soccer game? I believe that this question is now sufficiently answered. The next time you watch a game or even take part in one, you’ll have a better understanding of the rules.

While rules are important in soccer, don’t forget the fun. Sometimes, especially in neighbourhood games, you can be content just playing until one side scores a goal. Of course, if one is playing at a professional level or in a league, the regulations are there, and for good reason. It’s time to kick that ball!

Hello there! I'm Sarah Harrison, a passionate writer diving into the world of storytelling. My words aim to evoke emotions, capture imaginations, and connect us all as fellow human beings. Let's embark on this literary journey together!